- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2006

RICHMOND — A Senate committee yesterday rejected the bulk of the House of Delegates’ $2.4 billion transportation plan, leaving lawmakers nothing more to discuss during the General Assembly’s special session.

The legislature’s failure to accomplish anything substantial stems from the deep philosophical divide between the conservative, anti-tax Republicans who rule the House and the more-moderate Republican leadership in the Senate.

With the impasse, the session adjourned last night, two days before the scheduled end tomorrow.

House Republicans pushed a transportation plan that relied heavily on debt and existing revenue that otherwise would go to schools, health care and other services. The Senate and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, favored tax increases, which the House rejected.

“I find the whole thing not only disappointing but a terrible commentary on our ability to get things done down here,” Delegate Vincent F. Callahan Jr., Fairfax Republican, said after the Senate Finance Committee rejected his proposed $1.5 billion bond issue for highway construction.

Mr. Callahan’s bill was the cornerstone of the House plan. Senators argued, however, that borrowing money without coming up with a steady new revenue source to pay off the debt was not a long-term solution to the state’s transportation crisis.

“It’s just fraught with some problems,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman John H. Chichester, Stafford Republican.

House Speaker William J. Howell, Stafford Republican, said the Senate seems to want to revert to the old “pay as you go” method of financing highway construction.

“That kind of thinking was outdated in the 1960s,” he said.

Mr. Chichester’s committee also voted down bills to impose harsh “abuser fees” on chronically bad drivers, earmark a portion of every budget surplus for transportation and allocate $339 million in the current budget for highway and transit projects.

The House scuttled one of its own transportation bills, sending back to committee a measure that would have allowed Hampton Roads localities to band together to impose tolls to finance transportation projects.

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