Photo by JoshuaDavisPhotography on Flickr.

In response to Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s insane plan to fund transportation by eliminating the gas tax, Democrats in Virginia’s House of Delegates have proposed an alternative. It combines Democratic and Republican proposals to increase the gas tax statewide and give Northern Virginia separate authority to raise its own new funds.

Yesterday, the House Democratic Caucus outlined principles they believe should underlie any transportation funding plan for Virginia, and offered their support for a collection of 9 alternate bills which they say form a bipartisan path forward and an alternative to the governor’s plan.

Among those bills are Republican-written proposals to institute a new 5% fuel tax and to raise sales taxes in Northern Virginia specifically for transportation projects in that part of the state.

Any transportation plan, the House Democrats say, should:

  1. Generate at least $1 billion in new money per year.
  2. Rely on a realistic, dependable source of revenue, based on Virginia’s actions, not potential federal changes that may or may not happen.
  3. Not transfer monies that otherwise fund schools, health care, and public safety.
  4. Fund not just maintenance, but construction, including rail and transit.
  5. Provide additional revenue both immediately and into the future.
  6. Give authority to Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads to raise additional funds for their own transportation needs.

These are solid principles, and they offer a stark contrast to McDonnell’s plan. The governor’s proposal would raise far less, and relies on money from the general fund, as well as from a federal Internet sales tax that has not passed Congress.

The 9 specific bills that Democrats cited as true to those core principles are HB1677, HB1878, HB2063, HB2179, HB2253, HB2333, HB1450, HB1472, and HB1633. The House could pick one of those 9 to push, or it could try to amend one of them to combine the best provisions from all.

Republicans control the Virginia House, and the Senate is evenly split, so any plan will need GOP support to pass.

Although it’s true that some questionable highway projects would surely be built if Virginia ultimately adopts this transportation funding plan, this also offers far more support for transit and urban needs than the governor’s proposal, and it doesn’t include as many harmful, regressive policies. This is a far more reasonable outline.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.