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Virginia negotiators reach transportation deal

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 20, 2013 at 7:17 pm •  Published: February 20, 2013
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"I also promised that ... there would have to be, by simple legislative necessity, components that not everyone would like," McDonnell said. "This bill certainly, depending on the philosophy of each individual legislator, does that. But the important thing is we now have the comprehensive transportation funding plan that has eluded Virginia for 27 years. Now it is time to vote."

Lawmakers broke from their closed-door huddle smiling at the bipartisan accord reached after four days of talks.

"Even when we disagreed, we weren't disagreeable," said Del. S. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, who led the House negotiating team. "We worked very hard on an agreement, and I think we've got a good package."

Sen. Walter Stosch, R-Henrico and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said at a briefing for the full Senate that the compromise maintains a user-fee approach to funding transportation while also recognizing that "the current methodology is flawed because of the fact it is now a flat, non-growing source of revenue."

"We had the same kind of compromise in 1986, when the user fee was ratcheted up and we utilized general funds for the first time," Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan, said after the briefing.

But whether the measure can secure the necessary 51 votes in the 100-member House and 21 votes in the 40-seat Senate is a mystery that will await this week's final vote.

Conservatives attacked the proposal as a tax increase.

"Get ready to pay up unless you speak up now," Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William, said in a blast email to supporters. "Call your delegate and senator right away and urge them to vote against any bill that raises any tax."

Senate Democrats and some Republicans agree higher gas taxes and sales taxes are needed to solve the state's transportation problems. Others propose both statewide and local or regional increases in sales or income taxes in Northern Virginia and Tidewater.

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AP Writer Larry O'Dell in Richmond contributed to this report.

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Online:

Transportation reform bill (HB2313): http://bit.ly/14ALWhG