News and Notes from the Virginia General Assembly
Monday, March 26, 2012
Special Session Update
The Virginia General Assembly remains in Special Session after passage of the state’s two-year, $85 billion spending plan was blocked during the regular session. Progress was made last week when the Senate Finance Committee agreed on a budget that should pass the full Senate with support from both sides of the aisle. It is widely expected that the House of Delegates will reject the Senate spending plan. After several procedural votes, it is expected that the Senate and House will send the budget to a conference committee to reconcile differences. Hampton Roads is represented in budget deliberations by Delegates Chris Jones and Johnny Joannou.
Legislator of the Week – Delegate Ron Villanueva
Over the course of the 2012 General Assembly Session, Delegate Villanueva introduced and sponsored several bills which focused on simulating competition and job creation among Virginia businesses. House Bill 945, which increases the transportation related construction bond threshold from $250,000 to $500,000, brings consistency between transportation and non-transportation related construction projects and further streamlines the procurement process was recently signed into action by the Governor. House Bill 334, Virginia Public Procurement Act, which provides a bid match preference for Virginia businesses in procurements up to $100,000. Although this “Virginia First Initiative” didn’t make it out of the General Assembly this session, Delegate Villanueva is determined to give Virginia businesses a chance to be competitive in the state and local procurement process.
Delegate Ron Villanueva
21st House District
Transportation Funding Takes Center Stage in Budget Debate
A $2.1 billion deal to expand and improve the Midtown and Downtown tunnels in Hampton Roads is sparking much debate over transportation funding in Richmond. Tolls for a commuter using the tunnels will cost approximately $1,000 per year. . Trucks will pay $7.36 for a one way trip during a rush hour crossing of the Elizabeth River.
A 10 cents rise in the gas tax would cost drivers about $100 per year. A gas tax increase of 10 cents would generate an extra $500 million a year for transportation in the Commonwealth. The gas tax has been at 17.5 per gallon in Virginia since 1986.
The Chamber’s number one legislative priority is finding a dedicated, long term solution to the Commonwealth’s transportation funding crisis. Most conservative estimates place our current transportation funding shortfall at $1 billion per year with $500 million that is slated for construction going to maintenance each year.
Toll Postponement Measure Included in Budget under Consideration
The budget currently under consideration by the General Assembly includes $125M to postpone toll collection on the Downtown and Midtown tunnels until 2014. There is also a provision to provide $300M in bonds to mitigate tolls in Northern Virginia and index the gas tax to inflation. Each $100M invested in the tunnel project reduces the toll by 10 cents.
Virginia Ranks Best State to Make a Living
MoneyRates.com has ranked Virginia the “Best State to Make a Living” in its annual survey. The ranking is based on an average income, cost of living, the unemployment rate and stable income tax.
Congressional Redistricting Plan Approved
The U.S. Justice Department approved the Commonwealth’s congressional redistricting plan clearing the way for federal primaries. Elections will take place as scheduled in Hampton Roads on June 12.
We will provide an in-depth review of the Commonwealth’s budget as information is confirmed.