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Northern Virginia might get more road maintenance funds

Northern Virginia would get a bigger share of the state’s highway maintenance funds under legislation being sponsored by Oak Hill Del. Jim LeMunyon (R-Dist. 67).

House Bill 1884 would allocate the funds “on the basis of vehicle miles traveled in each highway construction district compared to vehicle miles traveled in the Commonwealth as a whole.”

The Virginia Department of Transportation divides the state into nine districts. Under LeMunyon’s bill, for example, if a district represents 25 percent of all the vehicle miles traveled in Virginia, it would get roughly 25 percent of the highway maintenance funds.

The proposed formula would allow some deviation from the ratio in a single year, provided that the three-year moving average of funds falls in line with the statewide ratio. The legislation also gives the state highway commissioner the flexibility to direct funds to any project that is presenting a risk to public safety.

LeMunyon said his bill represents a fairer way to distribute highway maintenance funds.

“Right now there’s a process VDOT has to allocate that money based on need, which is just fine, except that need seems to be more focused on areas outside Northern Virginia,” LeMunyon said. “In a way, that looks like Northern Virginia is getting shortchanged.”

A subcommittee of the House Transportation Committee voted 3-2 in favor of HB 1884. The bill is awaiting a vote by the full committee.

The three subcommittee members who favored the measure are all delegates from Northern Virginia: Dels. Tom Rust (R-Dist. 86), of Herndon, Randy Minchew (R-Dist. 10), of Leesburg, and Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Dist. 41), of Springfield.

Transportation is a top priority for LeMunyon. Of the 15 bills he has filed this session, six involve transportation. They include:

• HB 1885, which would require VDOT to rate the pavement condition of every highway in the state every five years and post the ratings on a website. The House Appropriations Committee this week unanimously approved the proposal.

• HB 1886, which would prohibit over-the-road operation of certain vehicles whose tire weights exceed guidelines. This bill has cleared the House Transportation Committee.

• HB 2020, which would prohibit the use of toll revenues “for any purpose other than the construction, reconstruction, replacement, maintenance replacement, improvement, or maintenance of the facility for the use of which the tolls were imposed and collected.” This bill is before the House Transportation Committee.

— Destiny Brandon, Capital News Service

Governor rejoices as Transportation Plan moves forward

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has reason to celebrate after the House Finance Committee on Wednesday approved a key part of the transportation plan that he hopes will define his term.

“Our effort to enact a long-term solution to Virginia’s transportation funding challenges took a major step forward,” McDonnell said. “I am pleased that legislators from both parties voted in support of our plan.”

The committee voted 14-8 in favor of House Bill 2313, which would finance McDonnell’s plan, which he calls “Virginia’s Road to the Future.”

The committee’s action clears the way for the full House to vote on the bill.

“The can has been kicked for too long, and Virginians deserve a modern, well-funded transportation system that will get them to work and home on time, without delay,” McDonnell said afterward.

The transportation funding and reform package would invest more than $3.1 billion during the next five years into Virginia’s highways and transit systems. The plan also would make Virginia the first state in the nation to eliminate its 17.5-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax, which the governor said has been a declining source of revenue. Instead, the sales tax in Virginia would increase from 5 percent to 5.8 percent.

“With today’s vote, we are one step closer to delivering the long-term transportation fix that Virginians both want and deserve,” said House Speaker Bill Howell (R-Dist. 28), of Stafford.

But not everyone was satisfied with the governor’s proposal. The House Democratic Caucus said the governor’s plan focused too much on road maintenance and not enough on Virginia’s infrastructure needs.

Hugo, who carried the bill along with Howell, said he applauded his fellow delegates for offering alternative proposals, but he believed the governor’s plan would “stop the bleeding on the transportation trust fund.”

The transportation plan would provide funding for 158 highway projects throughout the state, including improving interstate paving, secondary system bridges and unpaved roads, according to the “Virginia’s Road to the Future” website, launched by the governor this week.

Although the bill overcame one hurdle yesterday, it still must pass the full House and Senate before becoming law.

The 14 committee members who supported the plan included 10 Republicans and four Democrats. Five Republicans and three Democrats opposed it.

Locally, Dels. Tim Hugo (R-Dist. 40), of Centreville, and Mark Keam (D-Dist. 35), of Vienna, supported the governor’s legislation. Dels. Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Dist. 41), of Springfield, and Vivian Watts (D-Dist. 39), of Annandale, opposed it.

­— Whitney Spicer, Capital News Service

Small business tax credit for recent graduates fails

A House of Delegates subcommittee has killed legislation that would have given small businesses a $2,500 tax credit for hiring recent graduates of Virginia colleges and universities.

House Bill 1303 was introduced by Del. Charniele Herring (D-Dist. 46), of Alexandria, who proposed an incentive system for small businesses that hired people earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree from a public institution of higher education in Virginia. In her eyes, small businesses are the cornerstone for moving graduates from the classroom to the real world.

“Small businesses account for more than 47 percent of employment to recent graduates, and it’s very important to provide tax incentives to encourage the hiring of our recent Virginia graduates,” Herring said.

“About 53.6 percent of recent higher education graduates have been unable to find a job, and that’s really what motivated me to pursue a way to give our students an opportunity to succeed after their education is complete.”

HB 1303 would have helped small businesses that hire Virginia public college graduates to fill new full-time jobs after Jan. 1 of this year. Those businesses would have received a $2,500 corporate income tax credit for each new full-time position. Businesses could have claimed the credit after the graduate had been employed for at least a year.

HB 1303 did not cover private colleges and universities in Virginia. That is the main reason why House Finance subcommittee No. 3 decided to table the bill.

On a voice vote of 5-0 on Friday, the subcommittee tabled HB 1303, suggesting it be revised to provide tax credits for hiring graduates from private as well as public colleges.

— Michael Schuster, Capital News Service