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Senator proposing increase in gas tax page 2

Date published: 11/17/2012


Watkins said his proposals are "a user fee concept, which, in my estimation, is exactly the same as a toll."

Tolls have generated a lot of controversy lately; Gov. Bob McDonnell has proposed adding tolls to Interstate 95 and possibly Interstate 64, leading to opposition from citizens groups, some lawmakers and two groups representing local governments.

Watkins' bill contains a provision requiring General Assembly approval for any tolls--currently, that's not required.

Other lawmakers say Watkins' bill is an option, but that there will be many proposals in the upcoming session.

"It's very ambitious," said House Speaker Bill Howell, R-Stafford, of Watkins' proposal. "I'm not sure we're ready to raise the gas tax 14 cents a gallon, and raise other taxes by taking away sales-tax exemptions. Something needs to be done, and I commend him for coming up with a proposal. I just think it's probably a little extravagant."

Watkins' bill might have a decent chance of passage in the Senate, but would face a tougher time in the House, where there are more Republicans and more have taken strong anti-tax stands.

"We've got to do something and we've got to make it a priority. The difficulty we have, we've got to come up with a plan that the House will go along with and the governor will sign," said state Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Stafford.

Stuart said that legislators are already talking about transportation proposals for the upcoming session, and that Watkins' is just one of them.

"There are some discussions that potentially could lead to a plan that the entire General Assembly could get behind. I don't know if it's going to be the Watkins plan or not. But there are a lot of us talking about potential plans that may be able to get us the money that we're going to need. I don't get excited about a plan that will pass the Senate, if that's as far as it's going to go. We have got to work with the House and the governor to come up with a plan that all of the chambers will agree on."

Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania, said he hasn't fully read Watkins' bill, but that he expects an emphasis on transportation and K-12 education in the 2013 session.

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