Attorney general and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli and a number of other conservative, anti-tax Republicans are speaking out against a bipartisan transportation deal cut Wednesday by House and Senate negotiators.
The deal would generate roughly $880 million a year when fully in effect in five years to address Virginia's roads maintenance and construction needs through a series of tax increases on wholesale gas and diesel fuel and hikes in the state sales tax, motor vehicle titling tax and hybrid vehicle registration fees.
"The bill that has reportedly come out of conference is vastly different than the proposals made by Governor McDonnell earlier this session and appears to have a very different fiscal impact on the general fund and Virginia taxpayers," Cuccinelli said in a statement.
"If reports are correct, this new bill contemplates a massive tax increase. In these tough economic times, I do not believe Virginia's middle class families can afford massive tax increases, and I cannot support legislation that would ask the taxpayers to shoulder an even heavier burden than they are already carrying, especially when the government proposes to do so little belt tightening in other areas of the budget," Cuccinelli said.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe and Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who is considering an independent bid, expressed support for getting a deal done.
But Cuccinelli is not alone in opposition to the deal. A number of other conservatives, including the entire slate of Republican candidates seeking the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor, voiced their displeasure.
"Virginia’s families and job creators already face the threat of new taxes from Washington Democrats, and the fact that any Republicans in Richmond would even consider piling on with new taxes of their own is dead wrong," said Pete Snyder, one of seven Republicans seeking the nomination for lieutenant governor.
Of greater concern to supporters of the deal is its fate in the GOP-dominated House of Delegates, where all 100 seats are up for election and a sizable conservative caucus stands opposed.
“We all want a comprehensive solution to address our transportation needs, but in an attempt to cobble together enough new tax revenue to satisfy the demands of Senate Democrats, this has become a Frankenstein’s monster for Virginia taxpayers,” said Del. Benjamin L. Cline, R-Rockbridge, co-chairman of the Conservative Caucus.
House Democrats, meanwhile, are said to be concerned over what Gov. Bob McDonnell might do to the compromise agreement if they lend their their support and help House Bill 2313 get to his desk.
Democrats point out that McDonnell has made no promises with regard to amending the deal, adding or striking components that would make it less palatable to their constituencies. McDonnell has urged the House and Senate to approve the deal.