Va. lawmaker proposes higher gas tax to pay for road construction

WASHINGTON – Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has called for tolls to pay for the state’s much-needed road construction, but another option is now on the table.

State Sen. John Watkins (R-Powhatan) proposed a plan that would increase Virginia’s gas tax from 17.5 cents a gallon to 31.5 cents a gallon. The 14-cent increase would eliminate the need to add more toll roads.

In the proposed legislation, taxpayers in the three lowest state brackets would get a break on their income tax. Electric and hybrid vehicles would also have to undergo an annual assessment of $102 a year.

The gas tax in Virginia has not been increased since 1986, but proponents say it would raise $736 million a year for road maintenance, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

More than $3 billion has been spent on road construction and maintenance in the past 10 years, and funding is expected to run out in 2017.

Watkins, who plans to propose the legislation in January, tells the Dispatch that the tax increase would have the same impact as adding toll roads.

“This is an issue that is affecting economic development and quality of life in the commonwealth of Virginia,” he says in the article. “If you want tolls, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between this and a toll.”

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton says the governor is evaluating the plan.

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this report. Follow @AugensteinWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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