That “whooshing” sound you heard over the weekend? That was the enormous sigh of relief from business and political leaders upon learning that the General Assembly had passed a far-reaching transportation bill that is seen as ensuring funding for vital rail and highway projects for years to come.
“This is a great step toward addressing the transportation challenges we face in Fairfax County and the Northern Virginia region,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisor Chairman Sharon Bulova. “The Transportation Bill … fulfills the call made by Mayors and Chairs of the Urban Crescent (the Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads areas) for new, sustainable funding to address our critically underfunded transportation needs.”
“I applaud the efforts of Sen. Richard Saslaw, Sen. Janet Howell, Del. David Albo, Del. Vivian Watts and others for reaching agreement on a funding strategy that moves us in the right direction. I am especially pleased with the commitment of $300 million for the Silver Line which will help to keep tolls in the Dulles Toll Road affordable for Northern Virginia motorists,” Bulova said.
Bulova also commended Gov. McDonnell for his “leadership in making transportation funding the focus of this General Assembly Session.”
The new measure replaces the 17.5 cents-per-gallon tax on gasoline with a new 3.5 percent wholesale tax on motor fuels that will keep pace with economic growth and inflation. Supporters say the average motorist could pay as much $15 more a month.
Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Jim Corcoran said it was “extremely positive to see Republicans and Democrats from across the Commonwealth come together to solve the stateâ€™s transportation crisis.”
“For the first time in more than two decades, the Commonwealth has the sustainable transportation funding it needs to continue on its path of economic success,” Corcoran said.
“Two months ago, the attitude from some was that a transportation funding solution was a non-starter and it wouldnâ€™t happen this session, but the Fairfax Chamber, in partnership with our elected leaders, many other groups around the state, businesses and citizens, persevered. This was the number one issue championed by the Chamber and the Northern Virginia business community this session, and one that we are proud to see through,” he said.
The reaction to the measure’s passage included Democratic candidate for governor Terry McAuliffe praising Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell’s leadership while the GOP candidate, Ken Cuccinelli, openly opposed the bill and tried to derail it through a legal maneuver.
McAuliffe said “passage of this historic mainstream compromise with bipartisan support is a critical step forward for Virginia. It will make significant progress toward solving our transportation problems and making Virginia the best place for business.
“Despite last minute attempts by some right-wing ideologues to stop any progress on transportation, Virginia’s leaders came together in the middle to find compromise,” McAuliffe said.
McAuliffe said, however, that he strongly disagreed with diverting money from the General Fund as will work to find an alternative solution if he is elected governor.
Attorney General Cuccinelli opposed the measure, which he said â€œcontemplates a massive tax increase.â€ Cuccinelli nearly derailed the measure with a legal maneuver..