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Transportation bill would leave big impact for PW drivers

- Whatever happens with Gov. Bob McDonnell's (R) final transportation plan is sure to make some people happy, some people upset, and a whole lot of people wondering what's in it for them.

Transportation bill would leave big impact for PW drivers

Whatever happens with Gov. Bob McDonnell's (R) final transportation plan is sure to make some people happy, some people upset, and a whole lot of people wondering what's in it for them.
The vote 53 to 46 vote last week in the House of Delegates advancing the governor's plan to eliminate the gas tax and raise the sale tax, among other items, split the eight delegates who represent parts of Prince William County, with five supporting the proposal and three opposing it.
State House Majority Whip Jackson Miller (R-50th) joined fellow Republican Dels. Rich Anderson (R-51st), Tim Hugo (R-40th) and Mark Dudenhefer (R-2nd) along with Del. Luke Torian (D-52nd), the lone Democrat of the group, in support of the measure.
Delegates Bob Marshall (R-13th), David Ramadan (R-87th) and Scott Lingamfelter (R-31st), voted against it.
The latter three are generally considered among the most fiscally and socially conservative members of the lower chamber, so their opposition to an increase in the sales tax and user fees is not all unexpected.
"After reviewing the plan carefully, I decided to vote 'no' on this bill mainly because the proposed plan did not include assurances that a higher share of revenues raised in Northern Virginia will remain in Northern Virginia," said Ramadan in a statement.
Anderson, however, viewed the context of the vote differently.
He explained his stance during a half-hour phone interview Sunday while visiting Williamsburg.
Miller, Marshall and Lingamfelter did not return calls seeking comment prior to deadline.
Anderson said that in principle agrees with the position Ramadan mentioned about Northern Virginia not receiving its fair share of funding for transportation.
However, he mentioned that he became hesitant to vote against the bill when legislators "clearly have to move forward" on the issue of transportation.
"I just don't want to be a guy who's standing there with arms folded saying, 'No,'" added Anderson.
Any bill passed by the House would still be subject to change in a conference committee with members of the Senate after that body passes its own bill.
The two chambers must pass identical versions of the same bill in order for it to be signed into law by the governor.
To Anderson, allowing conference amendments to take place outweighed what he said he viewed as problems with the bill.
In particular, he stressed an idea by Del. Dave Albo (R-42nd) of Springfield that would keep the gas tax but eliminate the sales tax on food while still raising the sales tax on other items from 5.0 percent to 5.8 percent, as prescribed by McDonnell.
"I just like this because it's less regressive for one and he sent it over and he had the Department of Taxation score this thing," said Anderson, adding that the department determined it would actually amount to a net tax decrease for a family for four making $80,000 a year. "I'm having some blind faith in the outcome."
Anderson said he's already received assurances that Albo's plan will be discussed during the conference committee.
Prince William may have one of its own members on that committee too as state Senate Dean Chuck Colgan (D-29th), the 10-term Democrat from Nokesville, generally participates on conference committees involving financial matters.
That is because Colgan is the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee and previously served as the powerful committee's chairman.
Additionally, the Virginia Department of Transportation secretary is Sean Connaughton, a Triangle resident and former two-term chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors.
McDonnell proposed four items specific to Prince William County in his budget. The list includes setting aside millions for an interchange at Dumfries Road and the Prince William County Parkway; widening Route 28 south of Manassas toward Nokesville; advancing the proposed bi-county parkway connecting Gainesville to Dulles International Airport in Sterling; and paving dirt roads.
Anderson said he and state Sen. George Barker (D-39th) are also particularly interested in making sure that High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes on Interstate 95 and Interstate 495 do not hurt slug commuters on the eastern half of the county by encouraging some people to drive themselves by paying a toll rather than share a ride with someone else.
"We're both kind of spring-loaded," said Anderson, adding that they are prepared to work "legislatively, to make sure that the slug system isn't impeded."
"George and I talked about that at length," he added.
The two also teamed up to make texting while driving a primary offense for drivers. Those bills are still working their way through the General Assembly.
While Barker said in a past interview that he's never sent a text message on a cell phone while driving, Anderson fessed up and admitted to it.
He claimed to stop doing that in 2012.
"You know, you've got to lead by example," said the two-term delegate from Woodbridge.
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