- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2004

RICHMOND (AP) — Gov. Mark Warner said yesterday that his proposed state budget and tax-reform plan would revive some projects that were dropped from Virginia’s six-year highway-construction plan.

Mr. Warner cited construction of a fourth lane on Interstate 95 in traffic-choked Northern Virginia as one of the projects that could be restored with the infusion of $1.3 billion over six years, including $392 million in the two-year budget he has proposed in the General Assembly.

The bulk of the additional funding would come from funneling revenue from a tax on insurance premiums to a priority transportation fund. Mr. Warner said at a state Capitol news conference that his plan would boost transportation funding by more than 20 percent, or the equivalent of a four-cent increase in the gasoline tax.

Several legislators have proposed increasing the state’s gas tax from its current 17.5 cents per gallon — 12th-lowest in the nation — to raise additional money for highways, but Mr. Warner said that’s not necessary.

Delegate Harry Parrish, Manassas Republican and chairman of the House Finance Committee, has proposed raising the gas tax by 6.5 cents per gallon to raise about $312 million annually.

“I still think we need a gasoline-tax increase, and I think it stands a very good chance,” said Mr. Parrish, who favors using the money Mr. Warner has earmarked for transportation for other essential state services.

The General Assembly has not increased the gas tax since 1986, when it went up by 2.5 cents per gallon. Mr. Parrish’s proposal would boost Virginia’s tax almost to the national average of 24.5 cents a gallon.

Delegate W. Benny Keister, Dublin Democrat, will introduce a bill in the General Assembly that would outlaw sound systems in cars that can be heard from more than 50 feet away.

Mr. Keister told reporters that he is tired of hearing car stereos as he watches television in his home at night.

He also said young people are endangering their hearing by playing music too loud, and that research shows that blind pedestrians can become disoriented by loud music from vehicles.

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