January 10, 2007
The 2007 General Assembly session kicked off Wednesday, but lawmakers won't get down to work until Thursday, where they will begin to grapple with the question of how to fund transportation.
This question was left unanswered last session. This session however, the upcoming elections leave reason to believe Democrats and Republicans can forge a compromise.
When Governor Tim Kaine announced his transportation plan that included higher taxes, Republicans said, 'No way, no how.'
"Whether or not you think tax increases are a good idea or a bad idea, or that they are appropriate," said Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, "The bottom line is: they aren't going to happen."
But now, a report by the Washington Post says, Republicans have been meeting privately with Attorney General Bob McDonnell to come up with their own plan.
This plan could include higher taxes in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, and the borrowing of $2 billion dollars for new road projects.
Although, Republicans are against raising taxes, Delegate Rob Bell (R) 58th said, "I think that given that the state is running in a historic surplus, we shouldn't be looking for new taxes."
Therefore, they don't see Governor Kaine's plan as all bad.
"I am pleased to see there are higher fines for drunk drivers and reckless drivers," said Bell. "And I am glad to see that he is going to dedicate to the insurance revenue that we already have raised for transportation and that we are going to keep it in transportation. I am also glad to see that he supports walling off the transportation trust fund to ensure those monies don't get used on other things."
Indeed, the upcoming elections where all 140 lawmakers' seats are up for grabs, makes it crucial that Democrats and Republicans strike a deal.
Otherwise, lawmakers' fear that angry voters will take their frustrations to the polls.
"Everybody that is up for reelection wants to show their constituents that they got something done on a critical issue," said Delegate David Toscano (D) 57th. "And in Northern Virginia, transportation is a critical issue.”
In his State of the Commonwealth, Governor Kaine is expected to call for a spirit of compromise. If that spirit doesn't appear, lawmakers could be bounced out of office and roads could be relentlessly clogged.