House Republicans Pledge to Dedicate At Least 50% of New Revenue Revisions to Transportation

MECHANICSVILLE, VA December 13, 2006 – Delegate Christopher K. Peace (R-Mechanicsville) joined House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) this week in support for committing a minimum of 50% of revenues exceeding those already allocated in the 2006-2008 State Budget to transportation funding. The amount of the latest revenue increase – or budget surplus – is expected to be announced when Governor Timothy M. Kaine unveils his proposals for amendments to the 2006-2008 Biennial Budget in his address to a joint meeting of the House Appropriations, House Finance, and Senate Finance Committees on Friday, December 15. Based upon budget outlook data released at last month, the expected revisions will be between $475 million and $550.0 million over the amounts in House Bill 5002, the current 2006-2008 state budget. “For over a year, we remained steadfast in our commitment to improve transportation in Virginia through VDOT reform, better land use planning and some additional funding. But we have also been adamant that these improvements should be done without a tax increase,” said Del. Peace.

A record tax increase was passed in 2004 and not one cent of that tax increase was dedicated to transportation. This year will show another large budget surplus for the 4th straight year. Over the past nine years transportation funding has doubled to approximately 9 billion dollars or nearly a seventh of the overall state budget, but increasing funding without reforming our transportation system and processes will be ineffective, which is why we must have comprehensive reform including land use reform.

Announcing this pledge by his fellow House Republicans, Speaker Howell issued the following statement: “In 2005, the budget proposal approved by the Republican-led House of Delegates prioritized and invested $1 billion in additional funding for transportation, which was the largest increase in additional funding advanced by any caucus – and substantially larger than the amount proposed by then-Governor Warner. Because of our initiative and leadership on this issue that touches people in their every day lives, we were able to negotiate an $850 million increase in transportation funding that was enacted into law last year. This was the largest single commitment made to our roads since 1986’s Special Session on transportation. Because our 2005 transportation package contained funding sources that provide continuing revenues, the funds dedicated to our roads are larger this year than they were the year before.

“During the 2006 Regular Session, House Republicans again stepped up and took the lead in providing a comprehensive package to address transportation challenges. Our three-pronged legislative package passed with strong bi-partisan support. It reformed and streamlined Virginia’s delivery of transportation services. It strengthened coordination in the transportation decision-making process between the Commonwealth and its localities. It also increased transportation revenues by $1.2 billion. This House proposal would have accomplished all these goals without increasing taxes and still provided substantial funding increases to all of Virginia’s other core services like education, health care, public safety and the environment.

During the Special Session that concluded in September, House Republicans advanced a package of comprehensive and forward-thinking proposals. Incorporating the most ambitious update to Virginia’s laws regarding land use since the initiation of zoning, we began examining ways to address one of the root causes of our transportation challenges, rapid residential growth. This package of organizational reforms would have the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Commonwealth Transportation Board more responsive, more effective, and better stewards of the taxpayers’ funds. Also proposed was an additional $2.4 billion in funding to jump-start long-overdue projects and relieve congestion, especially in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. This Friday, the Governor will announce that – for the fourth fiscal year in a row – the Commonwealth will be running a budget surplus thanks to the business and industry in this Commonwealth. In past years, and certainly in the amendments offered by the Governor to the 2006-2008 Biennial Budget earlier this year, there have been efforts to dedicate these surplus funds to items other than our top priority, transportation.

House Republicans continue to pledge budgetary measures to further improve transportation. During the 2007 budget amendment process, House Republicans will insist upon and will only support a package of budget amendments dedicating not less than 50% of the latest surplus to transportation funding. This amount will be in addition to the unallocated $339 million in funding the General Assembly and Governor approved for transportation during the budget process last year.