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Raising gas tax won't fix transportation woes

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Date published: 2/12/2013

Virginia has a transportation problem. That much we can agree on, but Sunday's Free Lance-Star editorial on the solution just doesn't add up ["We're No. 1--alas"].

Some estimates suggest Virginia needs to raise about $1 billion per year to cover its transportation needs, both maintenance and new construction. The plan Gov. McDonnell has laid out will raise over $800 million per year--and that's a conservative estimate.

This plan relies on a comprehensive approach including new revenue, reprioritization of existing resources, and long-term thinking to meet our needs.

For much of the past decades, Democrats across the commonwealth have urged Virginia to increase its gas tax as a solution to transportation. Sunday's editorial suggests the answer is just that simple, when the truth is raising the gas tax would come nowhere close to solving the problem without crippling Virginia families.

In order to meet the $1 billion revenue goal, or even just the $800 million mark met by the governor's proposal, the gas tax would have to be raised at least 16 cents--and probably more as people begin to buy more electric and hybrid vehicles and our traditionally fueled vehicles become more efficient.

More importantly, that is a short-term solution. The gas tax is a dying stream of revenue because of alternative-fueled vehicles and fuel-efficiency standards. We cannot continue to rely on a 20th-century revenue stream to fund a 21st-century transportation network.

Transportation is the largest and most complex public policy challenge that has faced this commonwealth in a generation. We would be wise to remember that difficult problems never have simple solutions.

Bill Howell


Mr. Howell is speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates.