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Up the percentage, but no new taxes
Del. Mark Cole's op-ed column on transportation in Virginia.

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Date published: 1/6/2013

TRANSPORTATION continues to be a high priority, especially for our area. In recent years the General Assembly, spearheaded by the House of Delegates, had significantly increased transportation funding to try to address traffic issues.

In 2005, we increased transportation funding by more than $ 1.4 billion, the largest increase in nearly 20 years, including $850 million in funding to reduce congestion on major thoroughfares like Interstate 95. The following year an additional $568 million was directed to transportation. During the 2007 session, the General Assembly financed the largest transportation investment in two decades by providing nearly $500 million in ongoing, new transportation funding and authorizing $3 billion in transportation bonds. In 2008 we restored $180 million in transportation funding that former Gov. Tim Kaine had diverted to other programs.

Soon after coming into office in 2010, Gov. McDonnell ordered a performance audit of VDOT that revealed $1.4 billion in previously authorized funds that were not being spent on needed highway maintenance and new construction. These dollars were redirected to long-overdue transportation projects. Another positive development came when Gov. McDonnell announced $1.1 billion in construction and maintenance projects for the first six months of Fiscal Year 2011.

In 2011, the governor unveiled an ambitious $4 billion transportation initiative as part of his budget and legislative package. With interest rates and construction costs at record lows, this was a good opportunity to get roads built in Virginia.

While we rarely get credit for it, the General Assembly and the current administration have made significant efforts to address our transportation problems. What is frustrating is that it seems that no matter what we do, traffic problems persist and even worsen. Part of the problem is that as cars get better gas mileage and with the increasing use of hybrids and electric cars, the gas tax generates less money per mile driven each year.

Every session we see new legislation to try to address the issue including raising the gas tax to new taxes and fees. The 2013 session will be no different. Already we have heard proposals to increase fees on hybrids and alternative-fuel cars, replace the gas tax with a sales tax, and to increase the portion of the current sales tax dedicated to transportation.

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Del. Mark Cole, R-88th, represents parts of Spotsylvania, Stafford, and Fauquier counties and of the city of Fredericksburg in the Virginia House of Delegates.