Gov. McDonnell outlines transportation overhaul
With the General Assembly set to convene, Gov. Bob McDonnell proposed Tuesday increasing Virginia’s sales tax and abolishing its nearly 27-year-old gas tax, making Virginia the first state in the country to do so.
The measures are a part of the governor’s proposed $3.1 billion plan to fund improvements to Virginia’s transportation system over the next five years. The funds would supplement $14 billion of transportation projects already under way in the commonwealth, the most in Virginia’s history.
“Declining funds for infrastructure maintenance, stagnant motor fuels tax revenues, increased demand for transit and passenger rail and the growing cost of major infrastructure projects necessitate enhancing and restructuring the commonwealth’s transportation program and the way it’s funded,” McDonnell said at a press conference.
McDonnell described the state’s gas tax as “outdated” because of inflation and better fuel economy since it was last changed in 1986. He said boosting funding for transportation was the only way to ensure Virginia could continue its economic growth.
Among his proposed changes:
• The current 17.5 cents per gallon gas tax, which accounts for more than 30 percent of the state’s transportation revenues, would be eliminated; instead, the sales tax would increase from 5 percent to 5.8 percent. McDonnell predicted this would generate more than $600 million in additional transportation funds. The 17.5 cent tax on diesel would remain intact.
• To supplement the increase in sales tax, a higher percent of the state’s sales tax would go directly to transportation funds – from .5 cents to .75 cents over the five years.
• The plan would impose an increase of $15 for each vehicle registration, resulting in an average vehicle registration cost of $56 per vehicle, McDonnell said.
• The state would impose an annual $100 alternative fuel vehicle. The governor dismissed the idea that the fee would deter people from buying alternative fuel vehicles. More than 91,000 are currently registered in Virginia.
McDonnell’s plan would use new revenues and more money from the general fund – an approach he said would appease lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. In the past, Republicans have supported using money from the general fund for roads as a core function of government. Democrats, on the other hand, have rejected previous attempts to use general fund dollars for transportation.
The General Assembly will consider the governor’s proposals during the 45-day legislative session that begins Wednesday.
If passed, the measures would take effect July 1. The Republicans hold a majority in the House of Delegates and a tie-breaking vote in the Senate. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who presides over the Senate, expressed support for McDonnell’s plan.
Additional details on Gov. Bob McDonnell’s transportation plan are available at http://tinyurl.com/va-gov-roads
The Varina Ruritan Club hosted the winners of its 2014 Environmental Essay contest at its monthly meeting March 11 in Varina.
The contest, in its eighth year, was for the first time open to students in grades 3-5 at Varina Elementary School. (It previously was open to Sandston Elementary School students.)
The meeting included the winners, parents of the winners, Varina Elementary principal Mark Tyler and several teachers who were in charge of the contest at the school. > Read more.
For the fifth consecutive year, St. Christopher’s and Benedictine will play a varsity baseball game at Glen Allen's RF&P Park as part of a fundraising effort for the River City Buddy Ball program.
The game will take place Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m., and the teams hope to raise $3,000 through donations, raffles and other efforts. Admission to the game is free, but fans who attend are asked to donate funds for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association's Buddy Ball program, which enables disabled children and teens to play baseball. > Read more.
The Henrico Division of Recreation and Parks will dedicate the Highland Springs Little League Majors Field in memory and honor of Rev. Robert “Bob” L. Spears, Jr., on April 12 with a ceremony at the field at 8 a.m.
Spears served the league as a coach and volunteer for 30 years and was praised as a pioneer for equality. His “Finish strong” motto embodied ethical perseverance on the field and in life. > Read more.
Do the Bunny Hop over to Meadow Farm on Saturday for an introduction to all the farm animals there! An introduction to “Global Sounds” – featuring Japanese, Indonesian, West African, Indian, and Brazilian music and dance performances – can be found at the University of Richmond. The University of Richmond will also host the annual Spider spring game, as well as the inaugural Spiders Easter Egg Hunt. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.
‘Muppets Most Wanted’ worthy of its franchise
Do Muppets sleep? It’s hard to say.
They don’t really eat (or breathe, as far as anyone can tell). And only occasionally do they have visible, functioning legs.
As far as anyone knows, sleeping might be off the table. And that makes it very hard to accuse the Muppets of sleepwalking through their latest feature, Muppets Most Wanted – even if that’s exactly what’s going on.
Jim Henson’s beloved creations were back in a big way after 2011’s The Muppets, with fame and fortune and even an Oscar, a first for the group (“Rainbow Connection” was nominated, yet somehow failed to collect at the ’79 ceremony). > Read more.
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