Impact IssuesJan 17, 2013
From the Desk of Danny Marshall
Representing the 14th District, Virginia House of Delegates
As we complete the first week of the 2013 “short” Legislative Session, the pace is fast and the tone is serious. We are scheduled to be finished in 45 days, which is February 23rd. While state legislation topics range from autos to zoos, by far there are three issues that bear special consideration this year.
First, there is the budget and questions that are handed down to us from the federal level. In what shape is the fiscal cliff now and how does it impact Virginia? Also, will sequestration possibly impact the more than 200,000 military jobs in the Commonwealth? We should be finished with our legislative session and headed home by the time the federal government determines those answers. So, we have to plan for the worst and hope for the best, while we are here and able to take action.
The governor was smart in starting last year to set aside money in case there are federal monetary cuts to the state or new federal requirements costing us money. Virginia has a Federal Action Contingency Trust (FACT) Fund. Additional money has been put in that account as we prepare for the worst.
The second hurdle this year is to address transportation funding. Virginia has been at or near the top of the lists for several years as the “best place to do business.” We have fallen back slightly and one reason given is that we do not have enough dedicated transportation funding. Current funding is not keeping up with maintenance costs. It is estimated that all transportation dollars will have to go to maintenance in 5 years, with no money for new roads.
In Northern Virginia, transportation is crucial in getting to a job. In Southern Virginia it is crucial in getting a job. A good transportation system across the Commonwealth helps businesses to grow and entices others to locate in Virginia.
If we want businesses to come, we must have efficient methods of transporting goods into and out of the state, both by rail and truck. To promote commerce in our area, we need to finish Route 58 with 4 lanes all the way to I-77. And, we need to start building I-73.
To address the need for increasing dedicated transportation funds, Governor McDonnell introduced a new plan during his State of the Commonwealth address last week. Here are some of the main points of his plan:
The Governor projects that this plan that would provide more than $3.1 billion in transportation funding for the Commonwealth over the next 5 years, tying transportation funding to economic growth and replacing the state's outdated gas tax revenue model with a 0.8 percent increase in the state's sales tax dedicated to transportation.
Eliminate the current 17.5 cents per gallon motor fuels tax on gasoline: The viability of the gas tax as the state's primary revenue source for transportation has been eroded by greater vehicle fuel mileage, the introduction of alternative fuel vehicles and the impact of inflation. Once this provision is enacted, Virginia will become the only state in nation without a tax on gasoline and motorists will likely see a significant break in the price of gasoline at the pumps. The motor fuels tax on diesel will remain unchanged.
Replace the current gas tax with a 0.8 cent increase to the Sales and Use Tax (SUT) dedicated to transportation: The SUT is a reliable, predicable and sustainable revenue source. For decades we have already had the policy that .5 cents of the sales tax goes to transportation. As the economy grows, the revenue from the SUT grows with it. As a percentage of the price of a product or service procured, the SUT inherently accounts for inflation. Virginia's SUT will remain below its neighboring states. Under the governor's plan, 85 percent of the increased SUT will go to the Highway Maintenance and Operations Fund and 15 percent will go to the Transportation Trust Fund.
Dedicate an additional .25 cent of the state's portion of the existing SUT to transportation: Transportation currently receives 0.5 cent of the SUT, and the governor proposes to phase in this share to 0.75 cent over five years. When combined with the 0.8 cent SUT increase, transportation will receive approximately one-quarter of SUT proceeds.
Increase vehicle registration fees by $15 and dedicate the revenue to intercity passenger rail and transit: There is a strong and growing demand for public transportation in Virginia, both within and between the state's regions.
Impose a $100 annual Alternative Fuel Vehicle Fee and dedicate the revenues to transit: The governor is a strong supporter of alternative fuel vehicles. There are over 91,000 of these vehicles currently registered in Virginia. Drivers of alternative fuel vehicles that use natural gas or electricity pay no motor fuels tax at the state or federal level and thus do not contribute to the primary means of funding roads. However, these vehicles still have the same impact on Virginia's roadways as conventional fuel vehicles.
Adopt the Marketplace Equity Act now and dedicate projected revenues to transportation and education: The 113th Congress will consider the Marketplace Equity Act, which would grant states the legal authority to collect out-of-state sales taxes.
For more information about the Governor’s plan go to: http://www.governor.virginia.gov/News/viewRelease.cfm?id=1588
The third issue, the one that is the most far-reaching of our lifetime and beyond, is the vote whether to lift the ban on mining uranium. I am opposed to lifting the ban.
We must look at it as “risk and reward.” In business and in life there are many decisions where we must judge whether the reward outweighs the risk. This is a complex issue and I will be glad to talk with anyone about specifics, as the depth needed would take up more space than we have in this newsletter.
This is not just a “what if” question. The game changed a couple of weeks ago when I received a courtesy call from Delegate Jackson Miller to let me know that he will introduce a bill in the House of Delegates to lift the ban. His bill is similar to one on the Senate side sponsored by Senator John Watkins.
Since session began there have been uranium press conferences in Richmond. One was for those who want to keep the ban and the other was for those who want to lift it.
This is an issue that divides our community, but we must live and work together.
I hope that we will not let it divide us.
As we make decisions during legislative session, I want to know your views about Virginia issues and specific bills before us. We have a survey on-line for those who live in my district. The questions deal with topics that are before us in Richmond. If you live in the 14th District and have not filled out our paper survey, I encourage you to go to my webpage: www.dannymarshall.com and access the 2013 on-line survey on the left side of the homepage.
If you want to read or keep up with Virginia legislation, you may go on line to: http://legis.virginia.gov/ Please let me know your ideas when you hear of state issues that are of concern.
We are now set up in our offices in Richmond. My legislative assistant, Mary Franklin, is staffing our office here, located in Room 702 of the General Assembly Building. You can contact us by sending an e-mail to DelDMarshall@house.virginia.gov or by sending a letter to me at PO Box 406, Richmond, VA 23218-0406, or by calling 804-698-1014. Visit my website at: www.dannymarshall.com
Until this year’s session concludes, I’ll be sending these weekly comments back home. I hope you enjoy reading the information, and I greatly appreciate this media resource and its commitment to informing the public.
Delegate Danny Marshall (R) represents the 14th House District which includes the City of Danville, Henry County (part) and Pittsylvania County (part).