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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

GOP legislators on opposite sides of transportation fix
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Bill Stanley
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Friday, March 1, 2013

By K.A. WAGONER - Staff Writer

The transportation debate in the General Assembly this year resulted in vastly different interpretations of the effects on taxpayers in Franklin County.

State Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin County), who voted against the transportation bill, called it "one of the highest tax increases in state history."

Stanley said the transportation plan passed by the General Assembly will cost taxpayers as much as $6.1 billion over the next five years or an average of $1.2 billion per year in new tax revenues.

"The tax increases included in the plan -- and the potential effects of those increases on our fragile economic recovery -- were just too great," Stanley said. "And the bill does not address specific transportation issues here in the Southside and Southwest Virginia."

However, Del. Charles Poindexter (R-Glade Hill), who voted in favor of the transportation bill, said rural Virginians will be paying less state taxes on gasoline, around 10 cents per gallon versus 17.5 cents.

"Since the current gas tax is a declining source of dollars, the bill eliminates the current 17.5 cents per gallon tax and replaces it with a 3.5 percent sales tax on gas and 6 percent on commercial use diesel, both levied at the wholesale level," Poindexter said. "The general retail sales tax is increased from 5 percent to 5.3 percent, which goes to transportation."

The legislators also disagree on the use of General Fund money on transportation. General Fund money is designated for education, health and human services, and public safety.

Stanley opposes using General Fund money for transportation, which is usually funded separately. He said the transportation bill will increase the amount of General Fund money diverted to fund transportation from 0.5 percent to 0.675 percent, raising approximately $200 million.

Poindexter disagrees: "I've always believed transportation is a core function of government and some of the General Fund money should be used for transportation."

Other components of the transportation plan include an increase in sales tax on new vehicles from 3 percent to 4.3 percent by 2016; a $100 annual fee on alternative fuel vehicles (hybrids); and an increase in personal property tax from 3.5 percent to 4.3 percent.

"It's clear that more than six different taxes and fee structures are being increased under the shadow of the fixed gas tax being abolished," Stanley said. "Unfortunately, we are now looking at a bill that contains a complex set of tax hikes that affects every Virginian throughout the commonwealth on a daily basis," Stanley added.

Poindexter said the vote was not an easy one for him.

"The bill is not perfect...but this is a bill that could pass regional and bipartisan hurdles to fix the (transportation) problem for a long time," Poindexter said. "So I did what I determined was the right thing to do for the citizens of the Ninth District and all Virginians."

The bill has been sent to Gov. Bob McDonnell for his signature.

McDonnell described passage of the legislation as "an historic moment for Virginia. Republicans and Democrats came together to find common ground, make hard decisions, and finally get the first major transportation funding package passed in 27 years."

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