Jones to confer on transportation billPublished 10:42pm Friday, February 15, 2013
Delegate Chris Jones is “cautiously optimistic” he and nine fellow legislators will be able to strike a compromise on the disparate bills the General Assembly’s two houses have passed on transportation funding.
Jones is among the group of 10, five from each house, that will begin meeting Sunday to come to an agreement. The group includes eight Republicans and two Democrats.
“I’m looking forward to rolling up the sleeves and getting to work Sunday at 3 o’clock,” Jones said Friday by phone from Richmond. “I’m hopeful that when we sit down Sunday, we will be able to make some progress.”
The House of Delegates passed a bill that proposes increasing the sales tax and eliminating the gas tax, mirroring the original proposal by Gov. Bob McDonnell.
The Senate, meanwhile, wanted to increase the gas tax and keep the sales tax the same, while .
Jones said he wants to see a mix of gas and sales taxes help fund the state’s transportation needs. But right now, he’s just happy the conferees have two bills to work with.
“I’m pleased we have a bill in conference,” he said.
McDonnell said in a statement this week that the Senate bill does not go far enough.
“The Senate bill uses far too little in general fund, which is an essential part of a solution,” he said.
But he, too, lauded the fact that the simple passage of a bill advances the process to the next step.
“I fully expect a final transportation bill to be more fiscally responsible and balanced, recognizing transportation is a core function of state government,” he said.
Advocacy groups also praised the passage of the bills.
“Supporters, after years of frustration, are excited by yesterday’s action,” reads a press release from AAA Tidewater. “After decades of failed attempts by lawmakers to adequately fund our bridges, roads and transportation system, AAA urges conferees to seize this opportunity to work in unison to craft a plan, while in conference, that remains substantive and sustainable.”