Transportation Bill the Talk of General Assembly Session in Richmond
Richmond, VA - Legislators were in Richmond Wednesday in the first General Assembly session of 2013.
They are there to talk about several issues, including transportation, which will be a major focus this year.
Republican Senator Steve Newman believes if he as chairmen introducing the transportation legislation can accomplish two goals, the transportation bill can pass both the House and Senate.
Goal one is to solve the transportation problem. For decades, legislators have been kicking the can down the road when it comes to comprehensive transportation reform.
The hope is this transportation bill raise $800 million.
Goal two is to make these changes without rolling out a general tax increase.
Newman says he wants the best bill possible and feels his fellow Republicans will be on board.
"This is a rare opportunity to have many of the conservatives say, 'We have a mechanism for getting to more revenue without violating our conservative principles,'" said Newman.
Republican Senator Tom Garrett says he likes some of the transportation ideas, which include getting rid of the gas tax and increasing the state sales tax from 5 to 5.8 %.
"At least we've taken that first step. Throw some ideas out on the table and start the discussion. So I'm hopeful," said Garrett.
There are a lot of moving parts to transportation, and not everyone likes every idea proposed - not even the gentlemen introducing the bill.
"There are certain parts like the vehicle registration fee that I'd like to work on, but there are other parts of it that are very strong," said Newman.
The vehicle registration fee would raise the price of a car decal by $15, which some Republicans also critique.
Still, many say it's too early to judge.
"We've had the Governor's comprehensive package for less than 24 hours now, so while I know about bits and pieces, I'm not going to speak ill about any of it yet because there's a lot of reading to be done," said Garrett.
Legislators say Central Virginia's rural roads need paving, but others aren't as rough as in other parts of the state. Garrett says that makes getting the money from Richmond to our hometown a challenge.