- The Washington Times - Friday, January 20, 2006

RICHMOND — The price of buying a car, titling and insuring it and the fines for driving it too fast would increase under Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s transportation plan, yielding $3.7 billion and nearly doubling state outlays for roads and public transit the next four years.

The new governor made his bundle of reforms public yesterday as Senate leaders announced their own $4 billion, four-year plan that also would increase the taxes on fuel and even on car repair bills.

“I believe it meets the objective of being a long-term package that is not a short-term fix, that we can look people in the eye and say …we can fix the problems that have bedeviled us for a decade and we can fix them for a long time,” Mr. Kaine said in an afternoon press conference.

In addition to his funding plan, Mr. Kaine will ask lawmakers for a “lock box” to prevent them from diverting Transportation Trust Fund money to nontransportation uses, allow localities to reject rezoning requests for development projects that would overwhelm their roads and streets and make greater use of public-private roadbuilding ventures and tolls to pay for new or enhanced roadways.

The idea, Mr. Kaine said, is to have those who use the roads most pay the greatest share of the costs.

“I’m trying to fund this out of user fees, which I think is fair. It’s fair to charge the users of the system, and there’s no service better than transportation where you can actually assess the costs against the users in an administratively easy way,” he said.

The governor’s and the Senate’s packages are a blend of fee, fine and tax increases, and the tax boosts will face a hostile reception in the House of Delegates, where dominant Republicans still seethe over a $1.4 billion tax increase in 2004.

Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, and the Republican-controlled Senate propose raising the motor vehicle sales tax from 3 percent to 5 percent.

It’s the largest single component of Mr. Kaine’s package and would generate $1.6 billion over four years and apply to the sale of all new and used vehicles, bringing it into line with the retail sales tax. That would add $600 to the sale of a $30,000 car.

“That’s going to be a very hard sell over here,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Vincent F. Callahan, Fairfax County Republican and one of many Republican leaders who have ruled out another statewide tax increase.

Even Mr. Kaine’s fellow Democrats said general tax increases have little hope in the House.

“At this point, we’re employing user fees as opposed to general tax increases. That would be far more favorably received in the House,” said Delegate Brian P. Moran, the Democratic caucus leader from Alexandria.

The Senate proposes removing the sales tax exemption from gasoline, forcing motorists to pay 5 percent more phased in over four years.

Based on today’s prices the increase would be about 31/2 cents per gallon the first year and nearly 9 cents the fourth year.

“We achieve this goal by applying tax rates uniformly rather than discounting or exempting certain transportation-related goods from taxation,” Senate Finance Chairman John H. Chichester, Stafford County Republican, said at a press conference.

Without those and other revenue committed solely to transportation, Mr. Chichester said, Virginia would have to siphon off tax collections dedicated for public education, health care and public safety.

Other major elements of Mr. Kaine’s proposal and the revenue each would generate for transportation over four years:

• $1 billion from boosting the tax on auto insurance premiums by $15 to $18 annually per policy, with a third of the total insurance premiums tax revenue dedicated to transportation.

• $296 million from an $8- to $13-per-year boost in the fee for registering and titling automobiles.

• $401 million from higher fines on traffic offenses.

• $339 million from the one-time use of general funds.

Increases in the Senate plan over four years amount to nearly $1.3 billion from a higher sales tax on gasoline, about $1.2 billion from sales taxes on car sales, nearly $500 million from the car insurance premiums tax, $345 million from a $10 increase in the cost of registering cars ($20 for sport utility vehicles), $116 million from increasing the tax on automobile repairs and $72 million from raising the tax on diesel to match the gasoline tax.

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