Yesterday, ten members of the General Assembly presented a "compromise" tax and spending proposal that includes a substantial increase in taxes and fees for a large portion of Virginia, particularly residents of Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Facts about the plan reveal that not all the new revenue is even going to transportation.
Among the taxes that will increase are the state's sales tax, the sales tax on car purchases, and local taxes in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Worse, not all the new revenue will be spent on transportation. According to today's Richmond Times Dispatch:
Not all of the 0.3 percent increase in sales tax goes to transportation. Part of the overall revenue generated by the increased tax would go toward an increase in education funding and other general fund priorities.
The fact is that outside of a constitutional amendment, how Virginia spends our tax dollars can be changed every year through the budget and budget amendments. This plan is no different. In fact, the Senate today again killed, for the second time this session (as it has for years), a proposed constitutional amendment to keep transportation funding off limits to future non-transportation spending whims. So while the fiscal needs for transportation are obvious, those who argue that this plan is going to "solve the problem" of transportation in Virginia are fooling themselves.
This plan is not just a tax increase, but new across the board spending. Make no mistake, if you live in the urban crescent or plan to or need to purchase a new or used car in the future, you are going to pay higher taxes. The idea that our gas prices are going down as a result of replacing the antiquated gas tax with a wholesale gas tax are, honestly, foolish. The plan calls for the elimination of the gas tax (17.5 cents per gallon) with a wholesale gas tax increase, which proponents of the plan indicate will be the equivalent of a 10 cent per gallon tax. The consensus, however, is that the "savings" will not be passed on to the consumer, so we will continue to pay higher prices at the pump.
It's disappointing that those involved in the negotiations of this plan couldn't come up with a solution to our transportation needs that didn't include placing even more financial burden on already struggling families and small businesses in the face of even more national fiscal uncertainty. Unfortunately, there is a lack of political will in Richmond to fix one of the biggest problems we face (outside of federal mandates that continue to destroy our state economy) — an antiquated and irresponsible public school funding formula that costs billions of dollars for more and more administration and fewer teachers. There's no doubt that the issues faced are complex and difficult, but this plan is simply not the best solution for Virginia's families.