A few minutes ago, the Senate passed on a vote of 25-15 the Conference Committee report of the Governor’s transportation plan (HB 2313). I voted “no.” Below are the reasons I gave for opposing the conference committee report.
Ladies & Gentlemen of the Senate:
I speak today as someone who grew up in the heart of Fairfax. As a little boy I looked out my window and watched the construction trucks roll down Chain Bridge Road. They built our County. As a lawyer, I’ve represented hundreds of local businesses in Fairfax which rely on roads, rail and airports to sell their products to the U.S. and the world.
For years, we have been waiting in northern Virginia for transportation help. We’ve been waiting for a sustainable solution, which recognizes that transportation is a state issue — and we deserve to have it solved on our state tax dollar.
That solution should be simple, uniform and equitable. It should stick to the historic premise that “the user pays” for our highways. It should treat all taxpayers equally.
This bill is not that solution. It doesn’t even pretend to be.
Instead, it does the following:
Lowers the tax on fuel consumers, while raising the tax on ordinary consumer goods.
Creates an arbitrary distinction between diesel and petroleum, so that clean diesel vehicles are taxed at twice the level of regular cars
Puts a $100 annual penalty on the drivers of fuel-saving hybrids.
Applies a discriminatory tax rate in northern Virginia, so that businesses in our area carry a 0.7% surcharge on their goods
Transfers $200 million annually from the general fund, which is ironically the same amount of funding which we have cut from higher education since 2008.
Fails to given northern Virginia equal standing in the body distributing state highway funds, the Commonwealth Transportation Board.
I’m aware that new funds are being raised for transportation — primarily through sales tax increases — and that will be critical in maintaining our current highway inventory. It will also raise millions for transit, including new support for Rail to Dulles. That’s great.
However, the method for raising these funds is complicated, contradictory and will eventually create “two Virginias” – with differing tax rates and, ultimately, differing levels of support from Richmond.
And that’s not acceptable.
I may be one of a small group to impose this final bill. That’s fine. There is always comfort in numbers, but not always the right answer. There is no vision in this legislation and, ultimately, money alone will not solve this issue.
I’ve been told that my opposition to this plan may result in the demise of my political career. If so, I can only state – at least there’s some benefit!