Following a legal opinion from Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli stating the 2013 Virginia transportation bill may be unconstitutional due to the regional component that levies higher taxes in select regions of the state, Gov. Bob McDonnell on March 26 announced minor amendments to the roads and rails plan.
The transportation legislation passed in the 2013 General Assembly session is likely to go down as a key piece of McDonnell's legacy, as Virginia for decades has gone with dwindling funds for new roads and maintenance.
The Republican governor's proposed solution, approved on bipartisan votes, is built on a string of tax increases and fees estimated to raise approximately $900 million a year.
According to McDonnell’s office, key amendments include:
-Reducing the proposed vehicle titling tax increase from 4.3 percent to 4.15 percent.
-Reducing the Alternative Fuel Vehicles annual Fee from $100 to $64.
-Correcting and reducing the rate of taxation for the regional congestion relief fee. The stated goal for this fee was to raise approximately $30 million per year. Based on slightly incorrect data, the fee was set at $0.25/$100 for real estate transactions. Utilizing correct data, a rate of $0.15/$100 will generate the same revenue of $30 million per year.
-Reducing the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) in Northern Virginia. At 3 percent, the TOT would place the tax in Northern Virginia near or above surrounding out-of-state jurisdictions. Reducing the rate to 2 percent will not significantly impact revenues, but will ensure Virginia’s hotels remain competitive.
-Addressing potential legal questions regarding regional taxation authority for Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Amendments are made to the sections imposing the regional taxes for transportation by the state to improve the legal posture of the law by changing the applicability of the taxes to any Planning District Commission meeting certain empirical thresholds including population, registered vehicles and transit ridership. Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia are the only jurisdictions currently meeting these criteria, but in the future other parts of the Commonwealth could utilize these tools if their transportation challenges continue to grow.