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Board Bashes Governor’s Transportation Plan

by Katie Pyzyk | January 30, 2013 at 3:50 pm | 772 views | 96 Comments

Screen grab of County Board discussing Gov. McDonnell's tranportation plan(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) County Board members spent a portion of Tuesday’s meeting expressing distaste with Governor McDonnell’s proposed transportation plan, namely the idea of eliminating Virginia’s gas tax.

The proposal would do away with the 17.5 cents per gallon gas tax, but would increase the state’s sales tax from five percent to 5.8 percent. The plan also would increase vehicle registration fees and add a yearly $100 charge for drivers with alternative fuel cars. McDonnell said that would raise about $3.1 billion over five years to fund road, transit and rail projects across the state.

County Board member Jay Fisette said that while it’s good to have some sort of proposal on the table in order to start a conversation about transportation funding, this plan is not the answer. He further stated that the plan was offered to the General Assembly at the last minute, without adequate time to review and understand it.

“Many people see this as a vehicle on which to find a better compromise or a more functional proposal,” he said. “This is hugely important to Arlington, to Northern Virginia and to the future of this state. I’m willing to give kudos for starting a conversation, but if this passed it would be a big mistake in the form it was proposed by the governor.”

Fisette believes eliminating the gas tax would incentivize driving and reduce the use of public transit.

“While it sounds good to eliminate a tax, they would be adding others. This is a user fee. There is a gas tax in every state in the United States. We would be the first to decouple the incentive to drive with the cost of driving,” said Fisette. “You’re still looking at a fee to ride transit, but you’re going to remove the gas fee for driving and spread that cost among everyone who buys something in Virginia. That doesn’t seem fair to people who choose to use transit.”

Several Board members worried that the proposal wouldn’t actually raise the additional money McDonnell says it will, but simply moves it over from a different area.

Screen grab of County Board member Jay Fisette discussing Gov. McDonnell's transporation plan“It shifts money from the general fund, which has been the basic source of funds for education, human services and public safety, and shifts those to transportation,” said Fisette. “So it’s robbing the basic source of funds for the rest of our needs to pay for transportation.”

Board member Mary Hynes echoed Fisette’s concern.

“We can talk about how poorly they’ve spent the money they have, but the reality of what the governor has proposed is it’s mostly smoke and mirrors,” she said. “It’s taking away with one hand and putting it in another place. The actual new money that’s involved in any near term frame is very small.”

Both Fisette and Hynes pointed out that nearly one-third of the proposed funds ($1 billion) would not be immediately available because it’s tied to pending legislation in Congress regarding internet sales tax revenue.

The transportation plan’s perceived dilution of local government’s authority and an increased role for state government proved to be another recurring topic of discussion. Board member Chris Zimmerman called it a “blatant power grab.”

“This is getting very frustrating to a lot of people in local government, that the administration has been not only not helpful in providing more funding, but essentially is continually distracting the conversation with these efforts to shift power away from people who have to pay the bills,” said Zimmerman.

A legislative committee approved the governor’s proposal today, and it’s expected to go before the full House and Senate in the Virginia General Assembly next week. The General Assembly is currently about halfway through its short 45 day session.

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  • Swag

    “add a yearly $100 charge for drivers with alternative fuel cars.”

    …as a penalty for daring to use something other than gas? I’m curious as to the reasoning or justification behind this.

    • novasteve

      It’s because the batteries harm the environment. I know they fell all smug and whatnot, but their priuses harm the environment a lot more than other cars.

      • thrak

        The batteries can be recycled, just like the lead-acid batteries (which are replaced 2-4x more often) in most cars.

        • novasteve

          That doesn’t explain away the strip mining of rare earth elements.

          • ARL-VA

            Why is that so much worse than the massive drilling operations for petroleum production? You’re overreaching here, badly. You do realize there is nothing inherently “conservative” about the oil and gas industry.

          • drax

            steve cares deeply about the environment.

      • Mary-Austin

        You don’t know what you’re talking about.
        And don’t pretend like you or McDonnell give a s**t about the environment.

        • novasteve

          And McDonnell Doesn’t care about the environment because he has an (R) after his name, yet you do care if you have a (D)? Let me know how much Al Gore cares about the environment when he lives in his huge mansion, and flies around in his private jet to tell me to ride my bicycle instead of driving.

      • drax

        No, it’s because alternative fuel cars pay little or no gas tax.

        But since the gas tax would be gone, it makes no sense.

      • confused

        is that also true for batteries on electric powered buses? you know, the electric powered buses that will make buses on Col Pike the enviro equivalent of street cars?

      • Devin

        It’s not a penalty. The logic is that you are using the road and creating wear and tear and not being subjected to the same level of tax. Ideally cars would be taxed based on mileage driven, but thats not feasibe at this point.

    • MC 703

      Just McDonnell shoving a finger in the eye of anyone with the audacity to try to do something for the environment. The a fist in the eye – eliminating the gas tax and encouraging MORE driving and using LESS efficient vehicles.

    • spaghetti

      The idea is that people who use more fuel efficient vehicles actually pay less towards maintaining the roads because their vehicles are more efficient (when transportation funds are tied to a gas tax). However, that doesn’t change the fact that they use the roads just as much as anyone else, but if they are proposing to get rid of the gas tax, it makes no sense to charge them the $100 fee…

    • spaghetti

      I think the alternative fuel cars get a big break on the car tax as well, even though they use the roads just as much.

  • novasteve

    LOl Prius drivers PWNED. Since the board opposes the proposal, I know the proposal must be a good idea.

    • drax

      “Since the board opposes the proposal, I know the proposal must be a good idea.”

      Kinda like voting for whoever has a certain party affiliation next to their name, huh steve?

  • Bring it

    Do they have a counter proposal?

    • Swag

      Of course not. The Board is just there to bash other peoples’ ideas, not generate any of their own.

      • drax

        Of course they do. You just didn’t bother to ask.

    • MC 703

      County government is not in a position to advance a state-wide transportation plan. I would prefer Arlington’s state-wide trolley system plan over this one.

      • Bring it

        They must support some other proposal. These are supposedly intelligent people. What other option is out there that they subscribe to? You and I both know they have ideas. Or at least I would hope that they do.

        • PavetheEarth

          Arlington County’s main purpose and idea on transportation is to oppose any and every attempt to improve or widen I66 and 395, object to any and every transportation plan which does not include some form train or trolly with a mixture of some kind of exotic power generation.

          I’m suprised you have not figured this out yet.

          • drax

            How dare they have opinions and try to make them into policies as elected officials!

        • drax

          Simply raise the gas tax, which hasn’t been raised to keep up with inflation since the 1980s.

          Or at least make gas subject to the same sales tax McDonnell is proposing, instead of tax free.

          • Courtenay

            How much would you raise it?

          • drax

            I don’t know, I’d have to run some numbers.

    • Wiz

      How about “maintain the status quo, where people who use the roads pay proportionally for their costs”?

      • FrenchyB

        I’d be fine with that, but the current 17.5 cents per gallon rate was set in 1986 and isn’t indexed for inflation. The tax revenue hasn’t grown proportionately with the costs of maintaining transportation infrastructure or building new projects.

      • redstang423

        To be fair, that isn’t quite the case now. Someone who drives a less fuel efficient vehicle the same number of miles as a high efficiency vehicle effectively puts the same strain on the transportation system (the environment is another case). Those who use PEVs actually don’t contribute to the system in the status quo.

        • redstang423

          My comment was directed at Wiz rather than FrenchyB to avoid confusion

  • KalashniKEV

    I’m generally in favor of anything which throws the County Board into a tizzy… but raise the sales tax? NO WAY.

    • Wait-a-minute

      We have been lucky un Virginia so far. 34 of the 50 states have sales tax rates higher than our current rate, most even higher than what McDonnel is proposing.

    • drax

      “I’m generally in favor of anything which throws the County Board into a tizzy”

      Kind of like voting for whichever candidate has a certain letter next to his name, eh?

      • KalashniKEV

        If any party can run a candidate with common sense, morality, and the guts to make deep spending cuts, lower taxes, and defend Freedom, he or she will have my vote.

  • thrak

    They need to focus on ways of implementing a mileage-based transportation tax. Moving taxes to the general fund is a sure way of just adding to a constant fight for transportation funds for years to come. Some recent reports on mileage-based funding, for anyone interested:
    http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/650863.pdf
    http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/tools/TL100/TL104/RAND_TL104.pdf

    And what’s the theory with having a $100 fee for alternative fuel cars? I understand it if there continued to be a gas tax, but if gas-vehicles would no longer be subjected to a fuel tax, this makes no sense.

    • Trent

      Gas users are still subject to the federal gas tax. And I know we’ve been through this multiple times but the state tax is at the wholesale level, and pump prices are set by contracts with the distributors, so there is not as direct a relationship as most people think when they consider it a user fee.

      The fee for hybrids is probably just trying to offset some of the subsidies that go into development. It’s not exactly a new concept anyway.

      • MC 703

        How do they offset subsidies paid to Exxon? User fees for IC engines?

        • Trent

          You’ll figure it out.

      • thrak

        I realize the federal taxes still apply, but this registration fee goes to the state — this doesn’t correlate. And I know the gas tax is at the wholesale level, but that is passed along to the pump prices. Removing the tax should, in theory, be reflected at the pump. Whether they choose do pass the “savings” along is another story. In any event, if the gas wholesalers no longer pay a fuel tax, alteternative fuel vehicles should not be subject to a new registration fee.

    • GoodOmens

      They do have a way to charge mileage based taxes – it’s called toll roads.

    • marie antoinette

      Get real Thrak. Mileage based tax? Joker. and LOVE arrogant ‘i am better than you’ Prius owners getting schooled. Today is a good day.

      • thrak

        @ marie antionette A mileage-based tax is the only fair way of a use-tax. Whether a car gets 20mpg or 50mpg, the wear on the roads is still the same. There are some relatively simple ways of doing this (which is why a fee for electric cars makes sense if taxes are otherwise just collected from fuel purchases). A few states have already been piloting this already. I’m not saying jack up the taxes, but it does make sense for the taxes to be paid in proportion to the road usage.

        I’m not sure to what your Prius comment refers. I’m not a Prius owner, although the ones I do know don’t seem to fit your stereotyping.

        • malaka

          Are you seriously saying that a 2,500 lb Prius puts the same wear and tear on the road as a 5,000 lb SUV?

          • thrak

            No, I realize that bigger cars do cause more wear. Just pointing out that the current taxes based on solely fuel usage don’t proportionally cover the wear each vehicle promotes. Hybrid/electric vehicles generally get better mileage than their similarly weighted gas-only vehicles, which means they currently pay less into road maintenance. That is why a mileage-based tax, which would hopefully factor in vehicle weight, would be the fairest use-tax.

            It would not be easy to implement but there are several ways of doing it. The easiest for VA would simply be to include odometer checks with the annual safety inspections. It wouldn’t differentiate between miles driven in VA and those elsewhere, but it’s not much different from filling up in a neighoring state today after having driven most of the tank in VA.

            GPS and other systems would provide much more accurate and fair systems, but privacy concerns would surely prevent them from ever being used (except possibly in commercial vehicles). The links in my original post describe some possibilities.

      • drax

        Prius owners don’t think they’re better than you. You just think you’re not as good as they are. And that makes you angry.

      • drax

        A mileage tax makes sense.

  • John Fontain

    “said Fisette, “You’re still looking at a fee to ride transit, but you’re going to remove the gas fee for driving and spread that cost among everyone who buys something in Virginia. That doesn’t seem fair to people who choose to use transit.”

    Mass transit generally operates at a loss. It is therefore subsidized by those who don’t use it. Said differently, mass transit users get their rides subsidized by non users. But in Mr. Fisette’s eyes, shifting more of the mass transit costs to mass transit users “doesn’t seem fair” to people who use mass transit?

    No offense, but this is one of the most illogical statements I’ve heard recently.

    • HP2000

      Not to mention selfish. Where is his sense of civic responsibility?

    • ARL-VA

      Every form of transportation receives massive subsidies, including automobiles. Car drivers only pay about 51% of total road construction and maintenance costs through gas taxes. At the Virginia state level, I remember reading that gas taxes only pay for about 30% of state road construction and maintenance costs. The remainder is subsidized from other revenue sources.

      So explain why it is such a horror to subsidize mass transit but not a horror to subsidize automobile use?

      • John Fontain

        “So explain why it is such a horror to subsidize mass transit but not a horror to subsidize automobile use?”

        Who said that?

    • johnf

      The Gas tax used to cover all road building. Now it covers less than a third of all taxes going to build and maintain roads and the rest is covered by sales and property taxes.

      While mass transit may operate at a loss sometimes, All roads in the commonwealth of Virginia most other states operate at a loss ALL the time. Your precious tax dollars would be better spent on mass transit than on repairing and building new roads every year.

  • mickey_

    Nothing like bashing something when you don’t have a solution. What ever happened to “let’s wait and discuss this after we have had time to look at it and see if there are other alternatives?” Great Board! I think they are the same clowns that wanted to discuss not allowing anyone 13 or younger into the dog park? Astounding representation!!

    • drax

      How do you know they don’t have a solution? Did you ask them?

  • Becoming Indifferent

    My favorite line from Mary Hynes:

    “We can talk about how poorly they’ve spent the money they have…”

    This coming from our board that supports the trolley, a financial black hole. Jeez, that’s rich.

    • DCBuff

      Be careful how you use the word “rich” in ArlCo. The board will tax you.

  • DCBuff

    So, because our cars are using less gas–a laudable goal set by the U.S. Government–we are going to tax everything else more? Clothes, food, computers, pencils, washing machines, glasses, you name it, it will cost more. Just not gasoline. Hmm. Here is a thought. If this is about maintaining a revenue stream, then raise the gas tax! Frankly, I’d like that a whole lot better than a higher sales tax.

    • David M

      Oh please FIsette: “… spread that cost among everyone who buys something in Virginia. That doesn’t seem fair to people who choose to use transit.” Yeah, like spreading the cost of Artisphere and the aquatic center across property tax payers is fair to those who won’t use it.

    • David M

      Hey DCBluff…. everyone uses transit. Everyone. Even if they walk, they still rely on roads: All their deliveries, police, fire, ambulance, postal service, bike riding, …. it’s about time everyone pay their fair share. I’m tired of representation without taxation.

      • DCBuff

        Hey David M…guess what? You’ve already got your wish. All local jurisdictions pay into Metro, so you’re both taxed and represented.

        • Hollywood

          +1

          I’d rather not be represented, especially by these clowns on the Arlington board, and not be taxed.

  • QuartHouse

    McD’s plan is horrible. But bashing from the Arlington County Board only makes it more likely to pass in Richmond.

    • KalashniKEV

      LOL… that’s actually 100% true.

  • TuesdaysChild

    I love it when the state goverment messes with the County Board.
    Gives the Board a feeling of what taxpayers in the county experience as Jay and other Board members pursue their pet spending projects, with no concern for county taxpayers.

    • KalashniKEV

      At least one of the current members of the County Board is going to be in jail in the next 2 years.

      • Get Real

        For what? Pursuing policies you don’t like?

        • KalashniKEV

          Corruption.

          • Get Real

            Again, people dong things you don’t like isn’t proof of corruption. I will happily point this out to you in two year’s time. And if I’m wrong, well, I’ll admit it like an adult.

          • Get Real

            Again, county officials doing things you don’t like isn’t proof of corruption. I imagine if you do have such proof, you’ll have given it to an investigator. I look forward to the results of your investigation.

          • drax

            We’ll see, Kev. We’ll remember your prediction in 2 years.

          • malaka

            But hasn’t he been saying that for 2 years already?

  • QuartHouse

    Here’s a plan:
    - pay for limited access highways by collecting enough in tolls on those highways
    - pay for neighborhood streets by collecting enough property taxes in that locality
    - pay for surface arteries by collecting enough gas taxes in that region of the state

    Don’t burden non-driving apartment dwellers with the cost of any of it, except when it’s baked into the purchase price of the transported goods they consume.

    • GoodOmens

      An increase of property taxes would most likely increase your rent.

    • DCBuff

      As David M points out above, partly correct, partly not so, you “non-driving apartment dwellers” need to be paying for the non-driving transportation (e.g., Metrorail, trolley) you do take. And, since that does not pay for itself, the funds must come from somewhere. So, conversely, a driving non-public transportation person like David M doesn’t want to have to be burdened by paying for your non-driving.

      • David M

        No, I get it. my taxes subsidize public transit for those non-drivers. I’m ok with that. I have no sympathy for non-drivers who think drivers are the only ones who should pay for the roads. For the record, I use both public transit and own a car (and own condo, so I pay property taxes).

        • drax

          The fact is that, nationwide and in Virginia, about a third or more of road funding now comes from general taxes rather than gas taxes or other user fees. So drivers are getting a huge subsidy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it should put an end to this subsidy talk.

    • HP2000

      Then don’t burden me with the cost of Metro. Car owners already have an extra burden via the car tax.

    • HP2000

      Then don’t burden me with the cost of Metro. We should be all in for all transit infrastructure. Car owners are already burdened with the personal property tax.

  • GoodOmens

    I’m all for eliminating the gas tax – however I feel it would be more appropriate to put up more toll roads if the fees collected would only go to road maintenance.

  • NIMBY The Chicken

    I’m sure the Gov really cares what 5 dems staring at a $50 million defecit think about his plan…

  • Dezlboy

    And the Governor’s plan does NOT eliminate the sales tax on diesel fuel. :-(

    • thrak

      I know the intent is to have the trucking industry pay more since they do significantly more road damage, but it certainly isn’t fair to those that have diesel pick-ups or cars.

      • DCBuff

        Then buy a gas-engine car and save!

      • BBMS

        And I believe freight carriers are paying a special trucking fee for that purpose as well.

      • GoodOmens

        Easy for truckers to avoid the fee. They can travel for 1000+ miles before a refuel – just fill up before the state line and sail through tax free….

    • thrak

      I just saw that the version of the bill the House approved specifies that owners of diesel passenger vehicles would be able to get some or all of this tax in some form of rebate. They also exempted natural gas vehicles from the $100 registration fee, for whatever reason.

      I don’t think this will pass the Senate, but we’ll see!

  • GoodOmens

    Furthermore how about converting 66 between the Beltway and DC into a Hot Lane from HOV during rush hour?

    You’d still keep usage low and have the bonus of collecting much needed road revenue AND get to travel on it without the threat of a ticket during times of need….

    • Zim

      I am suing you just for suggesting that.

    • KalashniKEV

      HOT lanes are racist. That’s not “The Arlington Way. “

  • Alex

    tl;dr Board upset because Gov doesn’t mention Street Car as ultimate transportation solution.

  • HughJassPhD

    I’m glad they are adding that $100 “Smug Tax”.

  • bobbytiger

    The “Arlington 5″ is at odds with Richmond. Who could have seen that coming?

  • mariie antoinette

    Fisette believes eliminating the gas tax would incentivize driving and reduce the use of public transit.

    Silence! King Fisette has spoken!

    Yes, believe it or not, we still have the RIGHT to drive in Virginia. I hope this clown gets voted out next election cycle. This entire Board needs to go.

    WAFJ.

    • drax

      No, you don’t have a right to drive. Jeez. Look up the Bill of Rights someday. It’s not in there.

      You certainly don’t have a right to drive without paying your fair share for the roads, whatever that share may be.

  • High Riser

    It’s no surprise that ultra-sound Bob is trying to replace the gasoline tax by increasing the most regressive tax possible, the sales tax. We ought to be increasing the gasoline tax to pay for roads.

    I’m OK with a mileage fee as long as the fee per mile is adjusted for the weight and size of the vehicle, e.g.., a heavy space-hogging road-pounding SUV pays proportionately more per mile than a small light-weight motor scooter.

    • Arlingtonian

      Trucking companies win big with McDonnell’s plan. They tear up the Commonwealth’s roads much more than automobiles do. They won’t pay any state gas tax and probably won’t pay any sales tax under McDonnell’s plan.

      I hope that some enterprising reporter or investigator finds out how much money McDonnell’s election campaign received from the trucking industry.

  • drax
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