Virgina Considers Road Pricing Scheme
Virginia House of Delegates rep David Poisson (D-Loudoun) has introduced legislation to create a system to track the driving habits of Virginia motorists, imposing a tax on every mile driven, opening the way for congestion charging. Poisson argues that the legislature should adopt so-called “Road Pricing” during the 2009 session to compensate for dwindling gas tax revenue. “Inflation and escalating construction costs have severely eroded the purchasing power of fuel-tax revenue,” Poisson said in a statement. “At the same time, tax receipts are dropping as soaring gas prices and a weak economy reduce traffic volume. When people do drive, it is in more fuel-efficient cars, which only makes our revenue problems worse. Clearly, we can’t continue this way.” Well of course not. Only the facts tell a slightly different tale…
According to the latest available state data, gas tax revenue was down 1.5 percent in the current fiscal year compared with last year. However, gas tax revenues– about $900m per year — continue to climb when compared to previous years. Current year collections were up 2.6 percent compared to fiscal 2007, despite gasoline prices that were 75 cents per gallon more expensive. Even the 1.5 percent drop in motor vehicle fuel excise tax collections had little effect on total transportation fund revenues. Thanks to increases in other fees and taxes, overall collections were up 13.9 percent for the year.
Nonetheless, state lawmakers and Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) officials have embraced the tolling concept, agreeing in June to add toll lanes to the Capital Beltway. A private consortium headed by Transurban will operate the toll lanes for a significant profit. To help advance its US plans, the Australian company gave $179k in illegal campaign contributions to legislators and Governor Tim Kaine (D). Poisson introduced a separate measure, House Bill 1590, that makes rush hour toll payments tax deductible. In effect, this lowers the price of driving for in-state motorists and raises the cost of driving for out-of-state motorists.
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