How Much Have We Lost?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Weekly Column: The Final Week: U.S. 1 Funding Secured and A Transportation Deal

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch in the week of February 26, 2013.

The Final Week: U.S. 1 Funding Secured and A Transportation Deal

This week, the General Assembly ended with a budget and two major policy changes - a historic transportation bill and a Medicaid expansion process that I will discuss next week. 
 
The budget reported and now on the Governor’s desk contained a $2 million line item to pay for a Tier I Study of U.S. 1 pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act that I’ve been fighting to secure for four years.  This is the next legally required step towards laying the groundwork for actual major improvements to U.S. 1 between Woodlawn and I-495. 
 
The transportation bill (HB2313) has statewide and local components.  The statewide component repeals the $0.175 gas tax at the pump and replaces it with a 3.5% unleaded tax and 6.0% diesel tax on wholesalers equal to about a $0.10-0.12/gallon tax at the pump.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Veto the Hybrid Tax


Transportation dominated the debate this session.

Governor McDonnell's original bill (HB2313) contained a $100 annual fee for all hybrid vehicles.  That fee was rejected by both the House and Senate versions of the legislation passed.  However, when compromise legislation was reported, the $100 hybrid tax reappeared.

This is bad policy.                      
  • The Hybrid Tax punishes saving energy. Virginia needs to create incentives to encourage energy conservation so America can be energy independent.  Most states are giving tax credits for hybrid purchases, not punishing owners. 
  • The Hybrid Tax is a punitive tax.  The typical hybrid vehicle saves less than $35 per year in gas taxes - a $100 annual fee has no relationship to anything.
  • The Hybrid Tax is unfair.  There are many non-hybrid vehicles that get better MPG than hybrids.  They don't pay the tax.  This indiscriminately picks on one technology.
  • Hybrid owners already pay their fair share.  Hybrids already cost 10% more than other cars and there is no personal property tax phaseout for vehicles worth more than $20,000.                            
  • The Hybrid Tax will barely generate revenue.  There are only 92,000 hybrids in Virginia - 1.3% of the entire vehicle fleet.               
  • The Hybrid Tax picks on Northern Virginia.  83% of Virginia clean fuel plates are registered in Northern Virginia.  This is one more example of Northern Virginia being used as a statewide piggy bank.                         
State Senator Adam Ebbin and I have set up a petition to Governor McDonnell.  PLEASE SIGN OUR PETITION BY CLICKING ON THIS LINK:

Will you sign? 

We need to send Governor McDonnell a message that this is bad policy and he should line-item veto the $100 Hybrid Tax from HB2313.  All signatures will be delivered to Governor McDonnell.
Delegate Scott Surovell
Senator Adam Ebbin

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Conference Committee Reports Transportation Proposal

Yesterday, a Conference Committee of 8 Republicans and 2 Democrats announced a transportation proposal that we are told contained the following elements (we still have not been provided with text or official projections):
  • Eliminates the $0.175 tax on gasoline and replaces it by a 3.5% tax on gas at the wholesale level and  a 6% tax on diesel gasoline.
This nets out to less money than the existing gas tax.  Therefore, it makes up for the lost revenue and increases revenue by the following:
  • Imposes a $100 fee on hybrid vehicles;  
  • Increases the tax on motor vehicle sales (new and used) from 3% to 4%;
  • Diverts an increasing amount from the General Fund to transportation over five years ($200 million per year in final year). 
This allegedly nets out to approximately an additional $408 million year year in Year 1 and $880 million per year in year five.

Next, the legislation creates a Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads Transportation District funded local 1/2% sales tax options.  It also requires every locality in Northern Virginia to adopt a commercial and industrial real estate tax (Loudoun and Prince William did not do this in an attempt to attract commercial development from Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria who did).

Monday, February 18, 2013

Weekly Column: The Final Stretch: Progress on U.S. 1, Transportation Negotiations and School Reform

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch in the week of February 19, 2013.

The Final Stretch: Progress on U.S. 1, Transportation Negotiations and School Reform

As we move to the end of the General Assembly session, we are engaged in intense negotiations on the major issues. Also, we have had significant progress on U.S. 1.

Earlier this session, Senator Puller and I culminated four years of work to build support for a U.S. 1 study when the McDonnell Administration confirmed that it is holding $2 million to fund the next U.S. 1 improvement study. Last week, I met with over a dozen state, local and regional stakeholders here in Richmond to discuss the next steps on planning U.S. 1 improvements.
The study will have several elements. It will likely focus on the stretch of U.S. 1 from the Occoquan River to Alexandria’s southern boundary. Second, there is a consensus that we must consider all modes of transit – Metrorail, light rail and bus rapid transit. Third, it will be based on the regional population, employment and household forecasts maintained by the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments (COG). Some of these estimates may be larger than those in the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan. In addition, the study may include the impact that increased density has on transit ridership, if funding permits. We should know more specifics and timeframes in the next two weeks. We will issue a joint announcement and set up an informational website.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Weekly Column: New Virginia Currency, Crossover, Transportation and the State Budget

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, the Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch in the week of February 12, 2013.

New Virginia Currency, Crossover, Transportation and the State Budget

Last week in the General Assembly we hit “Crossover” on Tuesday – the day that each body must complete all work on their own bills. On Monday, I was in the capitol building from 7:30 a.m. until our session ended around 9:00 p.m.

That day, the House of Delegates passed legislation dedicating $17,440 of taxpayer funds to study the creation of a Virginia currency in case the Federal Reserve System fails. It passed on a mostly party-line vote.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Weekly Column: Five Bills Poised to Pass; Two Budget Amendments Adopted

The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, the Mt. Vernon Voice and Patch in the week of February 5, 2013.

Five Bills Poised to Pass; Two Budget Amendments Adopted

The Virginia legislature is now approaching “crossover” – the day that each body must complete work on its own bills and begin work on bills from the other body.

As I write this, one of my bills has passed the House and four more are probably headed to the Senate for consideration. Earlier this year, I represented a client who had work done on his condominium by a contractor. My client did not know the contractor was unlicensed. An unlicensed contractor cannot sue because their contract is illegal (like trying to sue on a contract for cocaine), but he placed a lien on my client’s condominium. I was shocked that there was nothing in the mechanic’s lien statute that required a license. My bill requires all contractors to put their license number and information of any mechanic’s lien. This will help protect consumers from predatory lenders. The House approved it unanimously.
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