General Assembly meets today on transportation

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Virginia lawmakers reconvene in Richmond to find new transportation funding, but their ideas remain miles apart.

Most Democrats favor increasing taxes for more maintenance and construction funds, while many Republicans want simply to fix the regional plans ruled unconstitutional by the Virginia Supreme Court this year.

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has introduced his own $1 billion transportation plan, which includes raising the sales tax on automobiles, the grantor’s tax, automobile registration tax and the sales tax in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, has suggested a gas tax increase. The gas tax has been 17.5 cents per gallon since 1986.

Republicans’ proposals include constitutional fixes to the regional plan, an audit of the Virginia Department of Transportation and tolls and HOV lanes.

The General Assembly passed a transportation plan last year, but the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that its unelected regional authorities in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia could not raise taxes. In addition, the assembly struck down its widely unpopular abusive driver fees, where were meant to bring in additional $63 million a year.

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