Delegate Tom Rust (R-Herndon) issued the following statement regarding the General Assembly’s recent passage of the comprehensive transportation funding and reform package:
“Ease of transportation is a basic need — it keeps the people and businesses that sustain our economy moving, and it is a core function of government to provide for a modern transportation system that can accommodate this need. Congestion and immobility not only hurt how we go about doing business in Northern Virginia, but our very quality of life. How we go about our daily routines, the ways in which we connect with each other and with our communities, and the health of our living environments are all inextricably linked to accessibility and mobility.
“Working together and moving past party lines, the General Assembly has passed the first sustainable, long-term transportation funding and reform plan in 27 years. With improved vehicle fuel efficiency, the return on the gas tax has moved into steady decline and is no longer a dependable, stable source of transportation revenue.
“To keep pace with our growing need for transportation funding, the reform plan reduces and replaces the current 17.5 cent per gallon gas tax with a 3.5 percent wholesale gas tax that grows with the economy, making this a more sustainable source of revenue.
“This reduction is matched by a 1 percent increase in the sales tax in Northern Virginia, raising the sales tax to 6 percent, with all revenue diverted exclusively to new transportation construction in the region. The Northern Virginia/Washington, D.C. area is the most congested area in the nation, costing the average motorist in Northern Virginia up to $1,400 per year according to a study conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute. Additional funding is critical to providing for badly needed transportation projects. Under the new plan, of the $3.5 billion in revenue which will be raised over the next five years, Northern Virginia will receive an additional $350 million per year in funding by this regional mechanism.
“Also, the new plan dedicates an additional $200 million per year of general fund revenue to transportation without deflecting any money from our schools. The plan increases the existing sales tax diverted to education funding from 1 and 1/8 percent to 1 and 1/4 percent for a total of $495 million per year.
“The health of our economy is tied to our accessibility to the workplace and the movement of its goods and services. Northern Virginia will not continue to attract new businesses to the region if its infrastructure frustrates the way businesses operate or slows their accessibility to clients and consumers. I served as co-patron of the package, voted in support of it, and believe it is an effective and responsible piece of legislation.
“There simply is no existing revenue to fund our infrastructure needs. Passing along a chronic problem to future generations would be irresponsible and only worsen our economic recovery in the long-term. We either make these small, incremental investments now, or risk passing along an unstable and unsafe transportation system to a future generation whose need for improved transportation will be met with an even greater urgency than that we face at present.”
A more complete analysis of the package will follow in the next issue of the Rust report from Richmond.
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