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Officials Praise Transportation Plan

by Katie Pyzyk | February 26, 2013 at 4:55 pm | 327 views | 20 Comments

Del. Alfonso Lopez, Sen. Janet Howell, gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe, Sen. Dick SaslawDemocratic Northern Virginia legislators joined gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe in spending part of the afternoon praising the state’s newly passed transportation bill and Republican Governor Bob McDonnell’s role in pushing it through.

State Sen. Dick Saslaw, Sen. Janet Howell and Del. Alfonso Lopez joined McAuliffe in discussing the bipartisanship and compromises needed for passing the legislation. Howell noted that nobody fully backed the bill but legislators had to put aside their difference to reach a compromise on the state’s first transportation funding plan in nearly three decades.

“We had very different views on what the ultimate solution should be. We had philosophical differences, we had regional differences, we had partisan differences. But we agreed on one crucial matter — doing nothing was no longer an option,” said Howell. “We’ve all disagreed with Governor McDonnell on certain issues, but this was a time when we came together. Like every compromise, no one got exactly what he or she wanted. In fact, there are parts of it that make me want to gag. But we made progress for Virginia.”

The press conference took place near the Washington Blvd bridge over Columbia Pike; speakers took turns referencing the bridge and how the new bill would fund similar infrastructure projects.

Construction on Washington Blvd bridge“We have needed this in South Arlington for literally decades. Because of the compromise that we were able to hash out in the General Assembly, there will be projects like this happening all across the Commonwealth,” Lopez said. “Literally, there have been pieces falling out of that bridge for decades and now we’re getting it fixed.”

Although he wasn’t directly a part of passing the legislation himself, McAuliffe said he spent hours on the phone with members of both parties, pushing them to find a compromise. The former Democratic National Committee chairman commended all legislators involved while alluding to more projects on failing infrastructure should he win the governor’s seat.

“We finally have some money to do what we need to do to keep the citizens safe,” said McAuliffe. “This was a bipartisan effort to deal with transportation. We are able to stand here today, where inaction has been happening for 27 years, and say something was done.”

McAuliffe did take time to blast Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who is expected to be his Republican rival for governor. He bashed Cuccinelli, as did the other officials in attendance, for acting as a roadblock to the transportation bill. He then turned his focus to another of his campaign issues — job creation.

“We need to be making sure that if we’re going to get cuts here, your next governor is focused on diversifying this economy, bringing in 21st century jobs. And you can only do that by a great transportation system, a great education system, workforce training,” said McAuliffe. “I can work with anybody, any time of the day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, anybody, anytime if you’re going to help me create jobs for the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

One of the issues in the transportation bill that has been controversial in Northern Virginia is the $100 annual tax for hybrid vehicle owners. Saslaw told ARLnow.com that he could potentially argue for either side of that issue, but it might be better for the governor in the long run if he performs a line item veto on that particular measure.

“The governor probably would be better off lining it out. You could say the squeeze ain’t worth the juice having it in there. It’s an awful lot of aggravation for $18 million out of an $800 million dollar thing,” Saslaw said. “It only takes a minute to look at it, I don’t know if he’ll do anything. And if he starts mucking with it too much, it’s going to start to get rejected.”

Saslaw said the issue will likely create more trouble than it’s worth because the number of hybrid drivers in the state is so small — only a little more than 1 percent of the total vehicle owners. He believes it might have made more sense to find another revenue boost, such as raising vehicle registration fees or imposing a tax based on a vehicle’s gas usage per gallon, not simply the fact that it’s hybrid. In the end, he reiterated that the bill was imperfect, but it needed to pass.

“I voted for the compromise, as did everyone else, because when that thing comes out of conference you either vote for it or you don’t vote for it,” said Saslaw. “As Senator Howell pointed out, [it] is not the ideal situation. In fact, when it becomes law, it’s going to have to be tweaked.”

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  • Oy

    “One of the issues in the transportation bill that has been controversial
    in Northern Virginia is the $100 annual tax for hybrid vehicle owners.
    Saslaw told ARLnow.com that he could potentially argue for either side
    of that issue”

    Well, at least he is being an honest politician.

    • bender

      Given the cost of those hybrids, only the rich can afford to buy them. And the rich should pay their fair share. Why should some poor guy – who can only afford to buy some late-model gas-powered car – have to subsidize the rich??

      The tax on hybrids should be $500 per year.

      • BlueLoom

        An entry-level Prius costs about the same as an entry-level mid-sized Ford or Chevy. Some of us bought our Priuses b/c we wanted to do something good for the environment. Now we’re getting penalized for it. If you want to pay for roads & highways, raise the gas tax on everyone. Not fair? Why is that wrong and penalizing people who made good eco-decisions right?

        • tophertwo

          How does a Prius owner in Northern VA help the environment cruising up and down HOV at 85mph, sitting alone in their car?

      • They’re not laughing WITH you

        The base model Prius and Civic hybrid both msrp around $24K. Honda Insight’s less than $20K. Mid-size hybrids like the Camry and Fusion are under $30K. Definitely 1%-er cars…

      • drax

        Since at least a third of road costs are paid for out of general funds, including the sales taxes on cars, the rich are paying for their hybrids.

  • South Awwlington

    Sen Janet Howell might have had the best line ever: ‘“We’ve all disagreed with Governor McDonnell on certain issues, but this was a time when we came together. Like every compromise, no one got exactly what he or she wanted. In fact, there are parts of it that make me want to gag. But we made progress for Virginia.”’

  • Douglas Parker

    I sure hope that this new solution will involve a dedicated lane for Columpia Pike west bound when this project is complete.

    All the people getting off 395S who ride the Columbia Pike east bound exit and get over onto Washington Blvd. at the last second muck it up for everyone.

  • Kill the trolley

    I don’t know the details of this bill, but if it kills the trolley, then it’s the best legislation EVAH!

    • drax

      Of course you don’t know the details.

  • GoodOmens

    “he reiterated that the bill was imperfect, but it needed to pass.” That’s what angers me about government. Passing crap that shouldn’t be passed at all.

    Still don’t understand why they can’t just put up more toll roads. I mean if you want a fair tax – might as well tax people who use the resources the most.

    • ARL

      So it’s better to just pass nothing and never get anything done?

      Toll roads? Really? They slow traffic down but barely put a dent in our funding needs.

      • its2013dude

        slow traffic down? youre thinking like roads with toll boths, right? This is 2013. Go ride the ICC or the beltway express lanes. Not a toll booth in sight.

        • ARL

          Uh, yeah, duh. Because they are rare, so only people who use them often can get transponders. If you want toll booths everywhere, you’ll have to account for many drivers who don’t have transponders.

          Maybe someday we’ll all have transponders and we can pay for every mile we drive or whatever. I think that would be great. But that time hasn’t come yet.

          • sd

            there are other ways to do it, too. london uses cameras reading license plates. but you’re wrong that only people who use them can get transponders. you mean that only people who use them DO get transponders. anyone CAN get them. and if they went this route, people would get them pretty quickly. you think it’s a great idea, but you are so flippantly dismissive of the idea, based on poor arguments

    • sd

      that is too intelligent for politicians to understand

  • LawMom3

    Gas tax. What does the bill do about the gas tax?

  • Rusty Lynn

    I think the $100 tax on hybrids is very unfair. I purchased used Prius several years ago. I’m not a rich person by any dollar related means and chose the used Prius because it made sense to drive something that polluted less and used less gasoline. There must be a fairer way to raise the $18 million that this item in the reputedly good bill.

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