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Gas Tax Increase to Fund New Roads and Rail

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Governor Northam is proposing increases in transit and increasing revenues from a higher gas tax to fund road resurfacing.

Governor Ralph Northam held a press conference on Monday to rally support for two transportation bills being considered by the General Assembly. 

The two bills, HB 1414 and SB 890, build on plans Northam laid out in December. His plan would make numerous changes to transportation systems and funding, including more regular rail service, new rules on driver safety, and the resurfacing of roads. 

Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said the changes are overdue.

“You've seen some of our streets,” Saslaw said. “Some of these streets look like you'd expect to see in Syria.” 

To help pay for the improvements, Northam proposes raising the state gas tax rate by 12 cents over the next three years. The tax will then be pegged to inflation. Virginia’s current gas tax rate, at 16.2 cents per gallon, is less than half the national average. This is expected to cost the average taxpayer around $60 more each year, Northam said in December

State gas taxes draw in roughly $750 million of revenue each year, Sen. Saslaw said. 

“When the three four cent increases are implemented, it will add another $500 million to that,” he said.

The administration says other changes would enhance road safety. One would allow localities to set speed limits within their boundaries. Others would step up penalties for passengers caught not wearing a seatbelt or carrying open containers of alcohol. 

Gov. Northam has also called for the end of state vehicle inspections. Some Republicans say that would make roadways less safe. 

The bills also would create a speed enforcement program involving automatic ticketing systems in highway safety corridors.

House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shennandoah) said he was still evaluating the transportation package, but was opposed to the gas tax.  

“The primary goal of those systems is to dig into people’s pockets and make it easier for the government to do so,” Gilbert told VPM News. 

These proposals are still making their way through the General Assembly.

*VPM Intern Alexander Broening contributed to this story. 

 

 

VPM News is the staff byline for articles and podcasts written and produced by multiple reporters and editors.
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