RICHMOND - Last week Gov. Bob McDonnell unveiled a plan that seeks to eliminate the state€™s 17.5-cents-per-gallon gas tax, making Virginia the first state to do away with its own tax on gasoline.
The plan would provide more than $3.1 billion in transportation funding for the state over the next 5 years, tying transportation funding to economic growth and replacing the state's gas tax revenue model with a 0.8% increase in the state's sales tax dedicated to transportation.
The proposal, meanwhile, has "sent ripples through transportation circles across the country and, more often than not, drew unfavorable reactions," writes The Virginian-Pilot.
"It's a little bit off-the-wall," said Greg Cohen, president of the American Highway Users Alliance. "The best thing about it is, it does raise money."
Ron Utt, a transportation writer formerly with The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, told the newspaper that out-of-state drivers would not have to pay Virginia to use its infrastructure, while elderly residents and others who don't drive would. "Unless they [out-of-state drivers] stop and buy a new suit or some lawn furniture or something like that, they will henceforth escape the responsibility of paying for the roads that they use."
According to Glen Besa, director of the Sierra Club€™s Virginia Chapter, eliminating the gas tax would de-incentivize consumers to purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles because the cost of fuel would be lower without a statewide gas tax. "When you go to a sales tax, you completely ignore the impact that consumers of gasoline have on the environment and also the transportation system," said Besa told the newspaper.
Robert Poole, director of transportation policy for the Reason Foundation, said the transportation research community agrees that the gas tax is not a long-term, sustainable source of revenue for road maintenance, considering rising fuel-efficiency standards and the growth of energy-efficient vehicles, writes the newspaper. Much of the "talk" over the last five years is to move towards a more user-based revenue stream, such as charging drivers for the amount of miles driven. "But I've never heard anybody replacing it with a sales tax," he said.