For the second year in a row Senator (and candidate for Governor) Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach) is trying to raise gas taxes in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. It’s a strange thing for Wagner to do when he represents parts of Virginia Beach and parts of Norfolk, both squarely in the higher regional gas tax zone. And he’s running for the Republican nomination for Governor. Raising taxes never endears Republicans to a candidate.
Senator Wagner’s bill, SB 1456, places a floor on the 2.1% regional gas tax in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. There is no ceiling on the tax. As gas prices have gone down so have the revenues on the gas taxes. (Of course the state government couldn’t possibly get by with less taxes.) These regional transportation taxes are supposed to be used for transportation projects in the region where they are collected. Here in Loudoun the funds go to metro buses until the second phase of the Silver Line comes to Loudoun. (Our extra gas taxes in Northern Virginia do nothing to help those of us who drive cars.)
According to this document revenues have fallen 40% due to lower gas prices. The document also explains the rationale for this floor on the regional gas tax. According to some delegates Frank Wagner’s bill could double gas taxes in the Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads areas. An explanation for why they need this floor:
In 2013, legislation was passed that put a minimum threshold of revenues from the state gas tax – to a level no less than the revenue that was available at the time of the law’s passage – effectively protecting the amount of revenue available at the state level. In the last year and a half alone, due to low gas prices and absence of a floor, NVTC experienced a loss of $23.1 million.
Earlier in January Northern Virginia Democrats said they would try to push through a bill that would put a new floor on the regional gas taxes. (The key word being Democrats.) Senator Wagner’s bill had passed the Senate in 2016 but it was defeated in the House of Delegates. Democrats wanted to try again. From WTOP.com:
Del. Vivian Watts, D-Dist. 55, a former state transportation secretary, said the push for a floor on the regional part of the gas tax, to ensure a minimum level of funding, will come up again in the General Assembly session that begins next week.