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Setting aside $57 million for rail improvements is certainly a great idea. The overwhelming success of the Virginia Railway Express and Amtrak's trains in Virginia justifies this action.
Gov. McDonnell wants to drop the 17.5 cents-per-gallon tax on gasoline but keep the tax on diesel fuel. An increase in the sales tax rate to 5.8 percent and diversion of some money from the general fund would offset this loss of revenue and produce additional transportation revenue.
But there is a better way to accomplish this worthy goal without raiding the general fund.
Substitute the current gas tax rate, which has not been raised since 1986, with a 10 percent mandatory lottery fee on the retail price of gasoline. It would be structured like a sales tax. Cash prizes could be awarded to anyone who paid state income taxes and who had a valid driver's license.
Since non-residents purchase 30 percent of the gasoline in our state, this measure forces them to continue to pay into our transportation network. The public will accept this revenue measure if it is marketed as a lottery rather than a tax.
If additional revenues are needed, raise the taxes on alcoholic beverages.