Although Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) declared in Tysons Corner last week that this year would be the year to pass a transportation funding bill, Fairfax County’s legislative delegation is far from optimistic about the prospects of a deal in 2013.
Like other localities around the state, Fairfax County has received essentially no state funding from the state’s secondary road program since 2009 and it needs an estimated $8.1 billion in transportation spending over the next decade.
The county is working with other local governments and business groups to advocate for the General Assembly to find a new source of revenue for transportation dollars during the 2013 General Assembly session.
“We need a real transportation solution that provides significant increases in state funding for transportation, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova (D-At large) told a group of legislators who represent portions of the county.
The response from legislators was, in essence, “Don’t hold your breath.”
“I honestly don’t expect a transportation bill to pass this session,” said Del. Vivian Watts (D-Dist. 36) who, nonetheless, plans to introduce a transportation funding package for the third year in a row.
The problem boils down to the same issue that has deadlocked bills in the General Assembly for years: Democrats favor new, dedicated revenue sources for transportation (i.e. tax and fee increases) and Republicans insist that at least a portion of the funding should come from the state’s general fund.
Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Dist. 35) said a bill using general fund dollars will never pass the Senate because that money is already dedicated to other needs, like education.
“We can’t fund public schools, we can’t fund higher education,” he said. “We cannot afford to take any more money out of the general fund ... unless we are willing to raise the sales tax.”
Saslaw said it would take strong leadership from the governor, who will be in the final year of his term, to get legislation passed. His Senate colleague Barbara Favola (D-Dist. 31) projected that it will take the 2013 gubernatorial election to generate fresh momentum on the issue within the General Assembly.
Del. Dave Albo (R-Dist. 42) said the debate over transportation during this session will be identical to past years unless both sides agree to give a little.
“If you want to get something done, you are going to have to eat something that you don’t like,” he said.
The General Assembly convenes its 30-day session on Jan. 9.