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Kaine unveils transportation plan

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Jessica Sabbath


With nine town hall meetings under his belt, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine unveiled a $1 billion legislative transportation package that he hopes will be amendable to the General Assembly when it returns to Richmond Monday for a second special session on transportation.

Kaine says his plan, which would be funded with a series of tax increases, will provide funding for highway maintenance and congestion relief in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. 

The statewide car sales tax would increase by a percentage point and annual vehicle registration fees would increase by $10 under a transportation plan Gov. Timothy M. Kaine unveiled Thursday.

In addition, the retail sales tax would increase a percentage point in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, the state’s most congested regions.

Kaine’s $1 billion plan was similar to the one he has been touting in town halls around Virginia. His proposals will be considered Monday when the General Assembly returns to Richmond for a special transportation system.

Kaine faces an uphill battle. Republican leaders have called for more public-private partnerships, saying tax raises are unnecessary and add a burden during the weakening economy.

The General Assembly passed a transportation package in 2007, but much of that was struck down this year.  The assembly threw out its infamous abusive driver’s fees and the Virginia Supreme Court said the regional Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia transportation authorities were unconstitutional. They would have raised money in the regions for regional projects.

Kaine’s plan would:

-      Increase the state’s motor vehicle sales tax from 3 percent to 4 percent. The tax would rise ½ percent in January 2009 and another ½ percent in 2010. By 2012 the raise would bring in an estimated $203 million a year, which would be dedicated to the maintenance fund.

-      Increase the annual vehicle registration fee by $10, bringing in an estimated $77 million each year, which would also go to the state transportation fund.

-      Increase the statewide grant’s tax by 25 cents, which would go to a newly created Transportation Change Fund. This fund would be used for transit, rail and innovative solutions to reduce traffic congestion. The tax increase would bring in an estimated $150 million a year.

-      Retail sales tax would increase by 1 percent in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads for projects in those areas. The tax increase would bring in an estimated $368 million a year for Northern Virginia. Of that money, $50 million would go to the Metro, $25 million to the Virginia Railway Express, 40 percent to local projects and the remainder to regional projects.

-      The sales tax increase in Hampton Roads would bring in an estimated $202 million by 2011 to be used for specific regional projects, including Interstate 64 widening, construction of a third crossing and repairs to tunnels and bridges.


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