- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 7, 2007

RICHMOND (AP) — Anti-tax conservatives yesterday filed the broadest legal challenge yet to Virginia’s new transportation funding law, targeting the fiscal underpinning of the $1 billion-a-year initiative.

In 13 counts, the lawsuit states that nearly all major revenue sources in the first major highway funding boost in a generation violate either the U.S. or Virginia constitutions.

Among the claims:

Regional transportation authorities in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads with the power to levy taxes breach the Virginia Constitution because their members are not directly elected by voters;

”Impact fees” on people who develop their land in those regions constitute an unconstitutional governmental taking of property;

$3 billion in long-term borrowing for roads without statewide voter approval violates the state constitution;

The civil remedial fees, already under court challenge, violate federal and state protections against double jeopardy, equal protection under the law and state constitutional safeguards against excessive fines;

The multifaceted law, directing numerous ways revenues are raised and spent statewide and regionally, violates the state constitution’s “one-object” mandate that bills be confined to a single purpose.

“There are so many problems with [this bill],” said Delegate Robert G. Marshall, one of 18 plaintiffs who opposed the legislation that his fellow Republicans put together last winter.

“I think that Virginians … will understand that there is an effort to pull the wool over their eyes with this kind of government,” said the Prince William County Republican, one of the House’s most conservative members.

Because the suit was filed in Richmond Circuit Court, the court’s decision on the numerous and expansive constitutional questions would be immediately binding statewide.

Defendants include Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, Attorney General Bob McDonnell, House Speaker William J. Howell and the Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads regional transportation authorities.

“The governor feels confident that the transportation package is constitutionally and legally defensible,” said Delacey Skinner, spokeswoman for the governor.

Mr. McDonnell’s office, which will defend the state law in court, does not comment on pending litigation, spokesman J. Tucker Martin said.

The Circuit Court complaint was filed after lower courts in Henrico County and Richmond last week declared that fees as high as $3,000 for egregious driving violate the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law because only Virginia residents are subject to them.

Also, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors last week signed on as a defendant in a lawsuit that questions whether the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority has the power to levy local taxes. The NVTA filed a “bond validation suit” last month in Arlington against the jurisdictions it represents.

Washington Times reporter Seth McLaughlin contributed to this report.

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