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McDonnell says commonwealth has to act on transportation funding

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Facing his last year in office, Gov. Bob McDonnell says 2013 “has got to be the year” that Virginia addresses its transportation funding problems.

The governor told an audience of 700 businesspeople attending an economic conference in Richmond on Friday there is a growing consensus among legislators that the commonwealth is “out of excuses” for not coming up with a dependable source of funding to meet its growing transportation needs.

McDonnell offered few details other than to say his transportation proposals would include a combination of “some new revenue” and some use of the commonwealth’s general fund. He expects to unveil his plans in coming weeks.

The proposals will likely include ”something that you will all love, and you will all hate,” he said.

McDonnell already has proposed diverting a small portion of the state sales tax for transportation.

In his talk, the governor cited “long-term lower trajectory” of the commonwealth’s current transportation funding source, its 17.5 cents-a-gallon gasoline tax, which has been unchanged since 1986.

That revenue stream has eroded over the decades because of inflation and the increasing fuel efficiency of today’s cars.

By 2017, the commonwealth’s transportation trust fund is expected to have only enough money to cover maintenance. Nothing would be available for construction.

Since taking office in 2010, McDonnell has proposed a number of alternatives to raise money for transportation without increasing taxes, including collecting tolls on interstate highways and selling the state’s ABC liquor stores.  He has been able to get some projects done through public-private partnerships and by issuing bonds.

Meanwhile, the General Assembly, especially the House of Delegates, has resisted attempts to raise the gas tax.


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