by Jessica Sabbath
The Virginia Supreme Court ruled Friday that the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority’s regional taxing powers are unconstitutional — a devastating blow to the transportation plan the General Assembly passed last year.
The court unanimously found the taxing powers of the authority unconstitutional because it was an unelected body. The authority was made up of representatives from nine localities in Northern Virginia, two gubernatorial appointees, a state senator and delegate.
The ruling could also mean the same fate for the Hampton Roads Transportation Authority, which was set up in a similar way. The regional taxes and fees would have raised an estimated $400 million a year for Northern Virginia and $200 million for Hampton Roads.
Repealing those taxing options takes much of the meat out of last year’s transportation plans — which took years of wrangling to pass. The authorities were created to provide relief to the state’s most traffic-clogged regions.
“I am disappointed by the Supreme Court’s finding that the limited authority to impose taxes granted by the General Assembly in 2007, by an overwhelming vote by both bodies, was unconstitutional,” said Gov. Timothy M. Kaine in a statement. He said he would work with the attorney general’s office and lawmakers to create new transportation funding.
The assembly has also repealed the unpopular abusive driver fees, which were supposed to bring in $65 million each year. Lawmakers have not agreed on a way to make up for the revenue. The House of Delegates has rejected a Senate-approved proposal to raise the gasoline tax.