By Whitney Spicer
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – Three days after Senate Democrats derailed his transportation funding plan, Gov. Bob McDonnell urged two key Democratic senators to support the House version of his proposal.
McDonnell sent a letter Friday to Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw of Fairfax and Sen. A. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico. McDonnell encouraged them to pass House Bill 2313, which contains his proposals to eliminate the state’s gasoline tax, increase the sales tax and raise vehicle registration fees to fund billions of dollars in road and transit projects.
“While we can disagree on the specific mechanisms for addressing our growing transportation challenges, we cannot disagree on the fact that the problems must be addressed this session, without excuse,” McDonnell said in the three-page letter.
On Tuesday, Democrats in the evenly divided Senate blocked the Senate version of McDonnell’s transportation funding plan. However, since the HB 2313 cleared the House, it now goes to the Senate. It has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee.
The governor stated that although he was dismayed by the Democrats’ actions, he felt heartened by their recent indications that they would work to reach a common ground.
“Successfully navigating a solution through the General Assembly requires reasonable compromise,” McDonnell said. “While I prefer the elements of our original approach, I am willing to discuss other options, provided we stay reasonably within the overall goals proposed in our bill.”
“It will take cooperation among all of us to get this done,” he added.
McDonnell commended the House for passing HB 2313 (the vote was 53-46) and encouraged the Senate to do the same.
It’s likely the Senate will modify HB 2313, according to Delegate Margaret Ransone, R-Kinsale, who voted for the bill.
“It is my opinion the legislation will alter a bit, but this is an important step to help the commonwealth solve a major crisis,” Ransone said.
In his letter, McDonnell addressed Democratic opposition to the use of general funds for transportation. He said no bill is likely to pass the General Assembly without that provision. He labeled as “simply inaccurate” the contention that this provision would take funding away from programs such as public education and health care.
According to McDonnell, more than 80 percent of Virginians support passing a transportation plan this year.
“We are on the precipice of enacting the first significant sustainable transportation funding bill in a generation,” McDonnell said. “Failure will be a great disservice to the people of Virginia.”
Capital News Service is a student news-gathering program sponsored by the School of Mass Communications at Virginia Commonwealth University.