February 23, 2007
The General Assembly is nearing the end of its scheduled time in Richmond yet still some things are unresolved despite the announcement that a transportation agreement has been reached.
"We need a massive infusion of new cash into our state highway spending program. We are spending more money maintaining highways today then we are building them," said Creigh Deeds, D-25th District.
From the beginning of this session, transportation has been the main focus of the legislative agenda. This afternoon, a committee comprised of House and Senate negotiators announced they came up with a compromise they feel could appease both sides of the fence.
"Today is a greatly anticipated day and it is one we have been waiting for for a long time," said Delegate William Howell, R-28th District.
"It's very promising. The group of negotiators have something they can support. The question is whether the majority of the House and Senate will support it," said Delegate Rob Bell, R-58th District.
The plan is largely debt based and would fund road projects with $2.5 billion in bonds over eight years. The biggest rift between the two sides has been the use of money from the general fund. This plan allows for some usage but less than what the House wanted to see.
"It's very important for people. The goal is to try and come up with the right answer knowing that you can talk forever but at some point you have to say this is going to be the best plan we can realistically get, let's do it," Bell said.
"Everything is coming at us very quickly. We'll get the decision on the transportation plan and then we have to turn around a couple of hours later and approve a budget. It's going to be pretty chaotic over here in the next 24 hours," said Delegate David Toscano, D-57th District.
Several minutes ago, Governor Tim Kaine released a statement criticizing the plan. The Governor said, "This last minute proposal does not represent a compromise, and it certainly does not represent a solution to Virginia's transportation challenges." The plan goes before the House and Senate for a full vote tomorrow.
If needed, the Governor may ask the Legislature to stay a few extra days rather than calling for a special session.