By Whitney Spicer and Alix Hines, Capital News Service
All 20 of Virginia’s Democratic senators — including Vienna-area Sens. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) and Janet Howell (D-Reston) — voted against Gov. Bob McDonnell’s transportation plan late Tuesday, effectively blocking the Senate’s version of the proposal for this legislative session.
The move makes it less likely Gov. Bob McDonnell will pass a transportation package in his last year in office.
While the House amended and approved a version of the plan, HB 2313, earlier Tuesday, sending it to the Senate Finance Committee, Senate Democrats “vowed to block any proposal that generated less than $1.2 billion a year in new roads money,” the Washington Examiner reports.
That opposition is what doomed SB 1355 on Tuesday night. Though it got a 20-20 vote, the matter involved revenue, which means Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who presides over the Senate, could not break the tie in the GOP’s favor.
Tuesday was the deadline for bills to win approval from their originating chamber.
“Rather than engaging in a debate on how to move forward with tackling our transportation problems, it is apparent that the Senate Democrats are once again content to risk our continued economic prosperity and our citizens’ quality of life,” McDonnell said late Tuesday.
McDonnell has said his plan would raise about $3 billion for road and transit projects over the next five years. It would eliminate the state’s 17.5-cents-per-gallon gas tax. At the same time, it would raise the sales tax in Virginia from 5 percent to 5.8 percent. The bill also would raise the registration fee for private vehicles from $33 a year to $48.
Delegates voted Tuesday to amend their bill to eliminate an additional fee for hybrid car owners and to prohibit tolls on Interstate 95.
The Senate version of the bill didn’t include either element, though two substitutes were offered.
Sen. Stephen D. Newman (R-Lynchburg) offered a substitute that would ditch the proposed increases in sales tax and vehicle registration fees and instead keep a wholesale tax on fuel at 5.5 percent.
Republican Frank Wagner also offered an amendment that would have kept a fuel tax at 8 percent.
The Senate shot down both ideas.
Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment Jr. (R-James City) criticized Democrats for their refusal to pass the plan.
“Their vote today put an exclamation point on their position regarding transportation: They have no plan other than to say ‘no’ to every plan presented,” Norment said.
An alternative bill introduced by Petersen, SB 855, would have kept the gas tax intact, raising it by 10 cents and also indexing it to fuel efficiency based on figures from the Federal Highway Administration.
The bill was left to die Tuesday in the Senate Finance Committee.
How They Voted
YEAS – Albo, Anderson, Bell, Richard P., Cosgrove, Cox, M.K., Dance, Dudenhefer, Edmunds, Fariss, Farrell, Garrett, Greason, Habeeb, Head, Helsel, Hodges, Hugo, Iaquinto, Ingram, Kilgore, Knight, Landes, Loupassi, Marshall, D.W., May, Merricks, Miller, Minchew, Morefield, Morris, O’Bannon, O’Quinn, Orrock, Peace, Pogge, Poindexter, Purkey, Putney, Ransone, Robinson, Rust, Scott, E.T., Stolle, Tata, Torian, Tyler, Villanueva, Ware, O., Watson, Wilt, Yancey, Yost, Mr. Speaker – 53.
NAYS – BaCote, Bell, Robert B., Brink, Bulova, Byron, Carr, Cline, Cole, Comstock, Cox, J.A., Crockett-Stark, Filler-Corn, Gilbert, Herring, Hester, Hope, Howell, A.T., James, Joannou, Johnson, Keam, Kory, Krupicka, LeMunyon, Lewis, Lingamfelter, Lopez, Marshall, R.G., Massie, McClellan, McQuinn, Morrissey, Plum, Ramadan, Rush, Scott, J.M., Sherwood, Sickles, Spruill, Surovell, Toscano, Ward, Ware, R.L., Watts, Webert, Wright – 46.
NOT VOTING – Jones – 1.
Delegate Jones was recorded as not voting. Intended to vote yea.
YEAS – Black, Blevins, Carrico, Garrett, Martin, McDougle, McWaters, Newman, Norment, Obenshain, Reeves, Ruff, Smith, Stanley, Stosch, Stuart, Vogel, Wagner – 18.
NAYS – Alexander, Barker, Colgan, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Hanger, Herring, Howell, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, Marsh, McEachin, Miller, Northam, Petersen, Puckett, Puller, Saslaw, Watkins – 22.