- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2006

RICHMOND — Voters in Virginia are not willing to pay higher taxes to ease traffic, a new statewide poll taken by Rasmussen Reports shows.

Of those surveyed, 58 percent said they do not think taxes should be raised to deal with traffic gridlock in Northern Virginia and other parts of the state. Twenty-four percent said they think taxes should be increased, while 18 percent were not sure, the poll shows.

The poll was taken as the Virginia General Assembly grapples over whether to raise taxes and fees to improve roads and mass transit.

The New Jersey-based Rasmussen Reports surveyed by telephone 500 likely voters Wednesday. The poll has a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.

The poll also showed that 74 percent of likely voters were closely following the news about the tax proposals presented during the legislative session. The session is scheduled to adjourn March 11.

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, has proposed a plan that would have increased the sales tax on buying a car and the levy on insurance premiums. House Republicans rejected the plan earlier this week.

Some Republican and Democratic senators have embraced a plan that would raise more than $4 billion over four years by increasing the gasoline and diesel taxes, the tax on auto repairs and the sales tax on car purchases.

Many House Republicans think the state’s multibillion surplus should be used for roads. The caucus has not presented its transportation plan.

Kaine spokesman Kevin Hall said the governor will take his plan on the road in the coming weeks and talk to voters about the urgent need to fix the state’s transportation problems. Mr. Kaine will hold a series of town hall meetings, one of which is scheduled to take place in Woodbridge later this month.

“Governor Kaine will have a frank discussion with Virginians about the needs and possible solutions for a long-term fix,” Mr. Hall said.

Mr. Hall also noted that Mr. Kaine thinks the proposed increases are “modest” and apply only to users of the state’s transportation infrastructure.

Lawmakers are working toward a compromise, because almost everyone agrees something must be done to deal with the problem of congested roads in Northern Virginia and elsewhere.

Mr. Kaine and the House agree that higher fines should be imposed for traffic violations such as speeding or drunken driving and that transportation funds should be locked so lawmakers cannot raid them for other purposes during tough times.

The plans submitted by the Senate and Mr. Kaine call for increasing the sales tax on cars from 3 to 5 percent, the current sales tax on other goods. The increase would raise more than $1 billion over four years by adding $600 to the bill for a $30,000 car.

The House and auto dealers oppose the sales tax increase, and the House Finance Committee voted 14-8 this week to kill that measure and the proposal for a higher levy on insurance premiums.

The auto insurance premium increase would have amounted to about an additional $18 per year for the typical driver, Mr. Hall said.

Senators defend their proposed gasoline tax increase by noting that 30 percent of motorists who buy gasoline in Virginia come from out of state. In addition, the last time the state increased the gasoline tax was 1986.

Lon Anderson, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said Mr. Kaine challenged the legislature to act this year. “The people want something done,” the spokesman said.

The transportation debate comes two years after the Republican-controlled legislature approved a $1.38 billion tax increase.

Americans for Prosperity-Virginia has been airing radio ads urging residents to protest the proposed increases.

The Rasmussen poll can be found at www.rasmussenreports.com.

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