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Original story from February 20, 2013
House and Senate negotiators delivered a compromise on state transportation funding Wednesday.
The proposal would raise close to $900 million a year for road construction and other transportation improvements.
But it's still a hard sell for conservatives who are opposed to raising taxes.
The proposal will reduce the gas tax, at least initially, by replacing the current tax of 17.5 cents a gallon with a wholesale tax of 3.5 percent.
It increases the state sales tax from 5 to 5.3 percent.
A $100 fee on hybrid vehicles is back in the equation, along with a one percent increase in the sales tax paid on motor vehicles.
Roanoke Delegate Onzlee Ware was the only House Democrat on the transportation conference committee. He signed off on a compromise he believes is the best possible deal, but he pegs the odds at 50/50.
“It's not a perfect bill. It doesn't fully fund transportation, but in my opinion it's the first time we've made a serious effort at realizing we need to raise taxes as a source of revenue,” Ware said.
Ware has reason to worry. Some conservatives, including Rockbridge Delegate Ben Cline, have problems with the transportation package they say amounts to major tax increase.
“I think that in these tight economic times and this fragile economic recovery, the one two punch of transportation tax increases and the sequester are really going to hurt Virginia's economy,” Cline said.
We also learned more late Wednesday afternoon about potential funding for passenger rail.
At this point, we're told the transportation package does include enough money to maintain existing trains, and extend passenger service to Roanoke.
But how this will play out between now and adjournment on Saturday is anybody's guess.