BREAKING: Virginia Senate Passes Transportation Deal 25-15

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    I’m watching the debate on the Virginia transportation compromise now. Numerous Senators, both Democrats and Republicans, have stood up and talked about how it isn’t a perfect bill but it’s the “only solution we could come up with,” and that it will help the Commonwealth move forward. In his speech, Senate Democratic leader Dick Saslaw said that the keys to his support are the overall revenue increases and the “regional packages,” which are “desperately needed” in NOVA and Hampton Roads. Senator Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) argued that the bill is “not perfect,” but that we shouldn’t “let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” and that “this is a good plan,” with a “dedicated source of revenue,” with a “real infusion of dollars” to transit, including Metro to Dulles (and that “this is a big deal”). Favola added that since money raised regionally will fund projects within the region. Sen. Donald McEachin emphasized the need for “compromise,” said he agreed with Senators Ebbin and Petersen, but that no better bill is possible today and this will help the transportation situation in Virginia, so he’ll be supporting it.

    In announcing his opposition, Senator Chap Petersen stated that the bill was internally contradictory, overly complex (for no good reason), that it wasn’t fair for his constituents to pay higher taxes simply because they live in northern Virginia, and that we should NOT divide up Virginia into areas with higher and lower tax rates. However, Senator Petersen noted that he’s highly likely to be in the minority, and (half jokingly?) noted that if this vote means he’s digging his political grave, then at least “something good will have come out of it.” Senator Adam Ebbin said it “wasn’t an easy decision,” but in the end it’s “bad economics and bad transportation policy,” a “bitter pill.” Why are we, for instance, penalizing people who own clean energy cars instead of incentivizing them? That makes no sense, in Ebbin’s view (and of course he’s right!). Why are we not raising the gas tax to fund transportation? “This bill hurts the people who can least afford it…Virginians should not be forced to pay a higher tax for the clothes on their backs than at the gas pumps…I’ll be voting no.”

    Bottom line: I’m told that the Senate WILL pass the bill in a few minutes.

    Regarding Medicaid, see here for Julian Walker’s reporting that “Key legislative leaders said this afternoon they have a legal way around the constitutional questions raised about Medicaid expansion by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.” So…it appears they may have nailed down a deal to expand Medicaid in the overall context of cutting the transportation deal. Ahh…”sausage making,” isn’t it grand? Yeah, definitely don’t want to watch it, but that’s how government often works.

    UPDATE: Here’s a photo of the vote tally. Note that the only three Democrats who voted no were Senators Petersen, Marsh and Ebbin. Republicans voting no were Black, Garrett, Hanger, Martin, McDougle, Newman, Obenshain, Reeves, Smith, Stanley, Stuart and Vogel.