- The Washington Times - Friday, April 25, 2008

RICHMOND (AP) — Legislators will return to Richmond one more time this year, Gov. Tim Kaine said yesterday.

Mr. Kaine said in a radio interview that within the next two weeks he will call a special session on transportation funding for the last two weeks in June.

Mr. Kaine wouldn’t elaborate on Richmond’s WRVA-AM what he will propose in the highway funding legislation he will put before lawmakers.

“When I make the call, I’ll put a proposal on the table and say, ‘Hey, this is what I think we need to solve it,’ ” Mr. Kaine said.

He repeatedly has insisted that a transportation bill deal with statewide funding for highway maintenance as well as regional packages for Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia.

Regional funding authorities for the state’s two most populous and traffic-choked areas were voided by a Feb. 29 state Supreme Court ruling.

The authorities were at the heart of the 2007 transportation funding law, but the court ruled them unconstitutional because unelected boards were set up to impose a patchwork of taxes and fees that totaled about $640 million a year.

Another facet of the transportation act, the widely loathed abusive driver fees, was hastily repealed. The fees was intended to generate $65 million a year from bad motorists but were applied only to Virginia residents. The fees took effect last summer but generated only a fraction of the projected revenue.

Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, has the authority to summon legislators to Richmond, but legislators in both parties see no evidence that partisan differences have softened.

House Republicans have been consistently resolute against a statewide tax increase to fund a growing backlog of highway repair and upkeep costs.

“I don’t know of anything that has changed,” said Delegate M. Kirkland Cox, Chesterfield Republican and the House majority whip.

Mr. Kaine and Senate Democratic Leader Richard L. Saslaw, Fairfax Democrat, are just as determined to find hundreds of millions of dollars statewide to keep pace with maintenance needs estimated at $388 million next year and nearly $600 million by 2014.

Eventually, they argue, the costs of maintenance will pre-empt money the state appropriates for new highway construction. By law, maintenance needs take precedence over construction money.

Lawmakers went home Wednesday night after a one-day session to consider the governor’s amendments to bills passed this winter. They also passed a $1.5 billion bond package for higher education, construction and other state building projects.

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