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Transportation bill amended

Published 10:41pm Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Gov. Bob McDonnell on Tuesday announced a series of minor amendments to a landmark transportation funding bill passed by the General Assembly in its 2013 session.

Legislators will go back to Richmond next week to consider the amended bill, which slightly reduces some proposed taxes and fees from the prior version.

“The changes were relatively minor overall,” Delegate S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk) said Tuesday, adding that there were no changes that solely affect Hampton Roads.

“If we do not act now to solve the commonwealth’s transportation funding problem, the cost of delay will be much higher in the future,” McDonnell said in a press release announcing the amendments. “I thank Republicans and Democrats in the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate for working together across party, philosophical and regional lines to solve one of our most vexing and longstanding legislative challenges. For 27 years Virginians have sat in traffic while partisan differences over how to address these challenges have stalled progress.”

Among the governor’s amendments was one that aims to address potential legal questions regarding regional taxation authorities for Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia.

The bill raises the statewide sales tax to 5.3 percent from its current 5 percent. However, an additional 0.7 percent tax will be imposed in the two regions, making the effective sales tax 6 percent.

The governor’s amendment extends that same taxing authority to any area of the state, so long as the area meets certain thresholds — including population size, registered vehicles and transit ridership. Currently, Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia are the only regions meeting these criteria.

Another amendment added general provisions to the legislation to ensure funds generated by it are used only for transportation.

“In making this commitment to fund this core function of state government, Virginians expect that commitment to be honored and that this funding is to be used solely for the purpose for which it was intended,” the governor’s press release stated.

A handful of taxes and fees were reduced in the governor’s amendments. The proposed vehicle titling tax will be 4.15 percent rather than 4.3 percent to assuage the concerns of automobile dealers, according to the release. In addition, the proposed alternative fuel vehicles annual fee will be reduced from $100 to $64.

Even with the reductions, the bill still results in more than $5.9 billion in total revenue for transportation statewide during the next five years, the governor’s office said.

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