McDonnell: No gas tax during recession

[Live Blog below]

WASHINGTON – A day after the governor of Maryland said he would like to institute a percentage tax on gasoline, the chief executive of Virginia said he would not seek any additional taxes during a recession, particularly on gas, despite a significant demand for more transit projects.

Both states have looked to sales tax to resolve their transportation funding woes. On Monday, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said he would like to do away with a ban on sales tax for gasoline, to add to its existing 23-cent flat tax.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has a different approach.

“I will not support an increase” in the gas tax rate, McDonnell told WTOP on “Ask the Governor” on Tuesday. Instead, he would like to see the half-cent currently taken from the 5-cent sales tax in Virginia dedicated to transportation, and increase it to .75 cents.

“It’s part of our concept of leverage,” he says, pointing to funds also generated from tolls and HOT lanes. “Every bit we get toward transportation is helpful.”

The governor also said bars and restaurants should not be held accountable to the victims of the drunk drivers they served.

Holding restaurants responsible for patrons who drive drunk is a “step too far” under the state tort laws, McDonnell told WTOP, adding that the drunk driver still has to make a decision to go out and drive.

“We believe in individual responsbility,” McDonnell says. “That’s not the responsibility of the restaurant owner.”

The governor cited what he says are some of the “toughest drunk driving laws in the nation,” including a proposal that would require an in-car breathalyzer lock for first offenders.

We’re taking a tough approach, he says, but not so far as to hold the establishment owners responsible.

This is starkly contrasted against the policy in Maryland. When asked on WTOP on Monday if restaurants and bars should be held accountable, O’Malley answered simply, “absolutely.”

In a special table-turning segment, McDonnell spent the last minutes of the show interviewing Mark Segraves. Check out the full audio at right to hear a very nervous reporter forced to answer questions for once.

Learn more about the governor’s take on abortion, plans to open up naming rights to roads, and new Maryland-Virginia bridges in our Live Blog:

10:53 a.m., speaking about the Fla. Primary:

We have good competition on our team. It’s down to four, and each one of them would be a better president than President Obama.

It’s still early. This is only the fourth primary.

10:47 a.m., speaking about carrying guns on campus:

I think that would be unsettling on campus, though an armed professor could have prevented some carnage.

I had to do the armchair quarterbacking on something like the Virginia Tech shooting.

If there were circumstances where someone wanted to do violence on campus, there might be room for a responsible professor or law enforcement officer to prevent that.

10:44 a.m., speaking about the King’s Dominion rule:

It’s inappropriate for Richmond to dictate to school districts what their calendar should be. It will pass in the House, but it’s been killed in the Senate.

In the meantime we have to focus on more academic rigor. I am concerned of any impact to tourism. Hopefully those who took their vacations in August will take them earlier, in June.

10:41 a.m., speaking about “dram shop laws” which allow drunk driving victims to sue the alcohol-serving establishment:

Under the Va. tort law, we believe that’s a step too far. We believe in individual responsibility. There are already remedies to punish someone who drives drunk.

We have some of the toughest drunk driving laws in the nation. This year, we’re looking to require an in-car breathalyzer after your first offense.

We’re taking a tough approach, but not so far as to hold the patrons responsible. That individual still had to make that decision to go out and drive.

That’s not the responsibility of the restaurant owner.

10:35 a.m., speaking about abortion:

I was the original sponsor of a bill 10 years ago that would require women to have a sonogram before an abortion. “I think it gives full information. It’s modern technology, the costs have been driven down, the ability to have that information before what most people would say is an important, life-changing decision, I think that’s important.”

Virginia Democrats also have some “wacky ideas.”

10:34 a.m., speaking about his “get along” advice to the legislature:

Everyone can put bills in. Only half of them pass. We’re still in the early stages.

“I know the Democrats are trying to make hay about some socially conservative bills.” That happens every year.

We’re focusing on jobs, taxes, regulation, and jobs.

10:32 a.m., speaking about approval rating versus President Obama:

Those are snapshots in time, though I have the same legislative problems as the president.

People just want government to work efficiently.

10:26 a.m., speaking about the possibility of a new Va.-Md. Bridge:

We’ve talked about it. Gov. O’Malley and I realize we both suffer from congestion on the Beltway. They’re not just commuting around D.C., but going up and down the busiest road on the East Coast: I-95.

You could take a lot of that traffic off the Beltway, and this might be a better approach than expanding Beltway lanes.

10:25 a.m., speaking about rats:

I have not followed the D.C. legislation. If there is an increase of rats in Virginia that carry disease, we would be worried about it.

I have confidence any concerns we have will be appropriately addressed.

10:24 a.m., speaking about becoming a veteran-friendly state:

We have a key bill that would allow all veterans access to in-state tuition at our colleges. We hope to institute hiring preferences for veterans.

We have a broad agenda, about 11 bills. We hope to become the most veteran-friendly state.

10:21 a.m., speaking about Virginia college accepting Virginians:

Only about 38 percent of Virginians have a degree from the state. With our new expansion we’re hoping to bring that up to 50 percent.

10:16 a.m., speaking about education:

We had a landmark, unanimous vote in the last assembly on education, with more focus on STEM.

“This year is the tough part. This year is the money.”

We’ve doubled tuition in the last 10 years. That’s unacceptable. We’ve created a new funding formula to drive education support.

10:12 a.m., speaking about a sales tax to a percentage of gas:

You won’t get a similar announcement as Gov. O’Malley’s yesterday. We’re facing one of the worst recessions in years. We’re not going to raise taxes right now.

We’re not going to do that in Virginia, but we are going to find ways to dedicate money to transportation.

We’re having less gas sold per capital because of green initiatives. It’s going to be an ongoing challenge. I think we ought to dedicate more of our existing revenues. I’m advocating the sales tax rededication to transportation.

I will not support an increase in the gas tax rate.

There will be new tolls in Virginia. “It’s a part of our concept of leverage,” such as the HOT lanes, a new mid-town tunnel in Hampton Roads.

This will leverage $8 billion to $10 billion by tolls.

10:04 a.m., speaking about selling naming rights to roadways and bridges:

We’re looking at a series of creative things to raise money for transportation.

We have $4 billion approved in transportation improvements.

I have a proposal to raise about $300 million in dedicating the sales tax toward transportation. I’m also looking at selling naming rights. We currently do it with rest stops, where people can do various commercial activities through federal law.

“It’s one idea of many that could generate some money. How much money? We don’t know.”

“Every bit we get toward transportation is helpful.”

It will probably be just roads that have a number. We probably won’t change any named after historical figures.

Half a cent of the 5-cent sales tax currently goes to transportation. I’d like to bump that up to .75 cents.

“Let’s make roads a priority.”

WTOP’s Paul D. Shinkman contributed to this report. Follow Paul and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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