Thank you for your email regarding transportation funding. I realize that Virginia’s state government needs to develop a long term solution to alleviate the gridlock and inadequate infrastructure that characterize our state’s transportation system. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I am committed to ensuring that improvements in our state’s transportation system are developed in the most equitable manner possible. I appreciate your taking the time to share with me your concerns about Senate Bill 639 and House Bill 1248.
As you are aware, Senator Frank Wagner introduced Senate Bill 639. This legislation provides revenues for the construction, maintenance, and funding of transportation by allowing localities to contribute to toll road construction, maintenance, and operation, allowing for the use of "revenue-sharing" funds for secondary highway system maintenance projects carried out by local governments, annually indexing the motor fuels tax based on changes in the U.S. Department of Labor's Producer Price Index for Other Nonresidential Construction in the immediately preceding year, and imposing an annual $50 license tax on electric motor vehicles. The license tax would also be indexed at the same rate as the motor fuels tax. Additionally, the bill repeals the five-year sunset on any local income tax adopted by referendum for transportation. This legislation has undergone substantial changes from its original form, and now the amended version of this bill addresses several of your concerns. The amended version of this bill implements a gas tax index, a measure that will substantially increase the amount of revenue that is directed toward transportation. This measure will provide much needed funding for transportation. Moreover, this bill removed the provision to establish a Tolling Authoirty in Virginia, thereby alleviating your concerns regarding this matter.
Senate Bill 639 was assigned to the Senate Finance Committee, which voted to report this legislation to the Senate floor. This bill then passed through the Senate floor with bipartisan support. On February 14, Senate Bill 639 passed through the Senate with a vote of 26-14 and referred to the House of Delegates. Senate Bill 639 passed through the Senate and was referred to the House of Delegates. The House of Delegates amended this bill to remove any gas tax index. The Senate rejected the House substitute for Senate Bill 639, and this bill will now go to conference. In conference, a select number of conferees are assigned from the Senate and the House of Delegates to work together to find compromise for this bill.
As you are aware, Delegate Lingamfelter introduced House Bill 1248. This legislation provides for the construction, maintenance, and funding of transportation by (i) increasing the dedicated transportation allocation of the sales and use tax from 0.5 percent to 0.75 percent, phased in over seven years, with the additional revenue dedicated for highway maintenance and operation, (ii) increasing transportation's share of year-end surpluses to 75 percent, and (iii) allowing the Governor to provide appropriations each year to transportation from a portion of revenue growth.
The bill also authorizes the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) to name highways, bridges, interchanges, and other transportation facilities for private entities if an annual naming rights fee is paid, with the revenue dedicated to highway maintenance and operation. The bill also charges the CTB with greater responsibilities involving integration of land use and transportation planning and authorizes the CTB to withhold federal and state funds for certain local or regional capital improvement projects if those projects are inconsistent with the Statewide Transportation Plan or the Six-Year Improvement Program. Provision is made for use of "revenue-sharing" funds for secondary highway system maintenance projects carried out by local governments. The bill also provides for special allocations by the CTB for bridge reconstruction, high priority highway projects, and reconstruction of highways with particularly deteriorated pavements. It also provides for the performance of maintenance projects directly by VDOT when it can be demonstrated to the Commissioner or the CTB that VDOT can do it at lesser cost than an outside contractor. This bill was assigned to the House Committee on Appropriations, which decided to report this bill to the House of Delegates. The House of Delegates has passed this legislation and House Bill 1248 has been referred to the Senate. The Senate amended House Bill 1248 to be identical to Senate Bill 639. The House rejected the Senate substitute for House Bill 1248, and this bill will now go to conference. In conference, a select number of conferees are assigned from the Senate and the House of Delegates to work together to find compromise for this bill.
As your representative in the Virginia State Senate, I recognize the value of your input. Please continue to keep me aware of issues that are of legislative importance to you. You may continue to track this legislation at http://lis.virginia.gov. If there is any additional matter with which I may assist you, please do not hesitate to contact my office.
Senator Tommy Norment