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12/13/2007
Virginia Lawmaker Vows to Stop Raid on Transportation Fund
Virginia state delegate proposes constitutional amendment to stop the raid on transportation funding.

Delegate Bob Marshall
A Virginia lawmaker is continuing his quest to stop his state's legislative raid on the gas tax and other user fees paid by motorists. Delegate Bob Marshall (R-Manassas) has spent a decade trying to pass an amendment to the state constitution limiting the ability of the legislature to use taxes on motorists to balance the general budget. This year, he came close to succeeding.

"Voters want politicians to keep their word," Marshall wrote. "A 'trust' fund should be just that. Our transportation tax dollars have been diverted for non-transportation purposes over the past twelve to fourteen years to the tune of roughly $1.2 Billion."

Earlier this year, both the state House and Senate passed versions of the proposed amendment, but an attempt to reconcile differences between the two bodies failed. With next year's legislative session focused on abuser fees and other transportation funding issues, Marshall is hopeful his plan will finally make it through the process.

Specifically, the amendment would declare various transportation funds as permanent and separate. This means that the General Assembly could pass a law to change how money enters the fund, but once there the money could only be spent on "financing, acquiring, constructing, improving, maintaining, and operating transportation systems in the Commonwealth, and all purposes incidental thereto." The General Assembly could temporarily borrow from a fund with a two-thirds vote, but the money would have to be repaid within four years -- with interest.

Marshall noted that between 1999 and 2005, the legislature increased its spending by 120 percent, far beyond the increase in population and inflation.

"It is unjust for government to keep treating taxpayers as bottomless ATM machines," Marshall wrote.

Marshall's amendment would, if adopted by the legislature, be put on an upcoming election ballot. It would then become part of the state constitution if approved by a majority of voters.

Article Excerpt:
HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 18
AMENDMENT IN THE NATURE OF A SUBSTITUTE
(Proposed by the Joint Conference Committee
on February 24, 2007)
(Patron Prior to Substitute--Delegate Marshall, R.G.)
Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Virginia by adding in Article X a section numbered 7-B, relating to special funds for transportation purposes.

RESOLVED by the House of Delegates, the Senate concurring, a majority of the members elected to each house agreeing, That the following amendment to the Constitution of Virginia be, and the same hereby is, proposed and referred to the General Assembly at its first regular session held after the next general election of members of the House of Delegates for its concurrence in conformity with the provisions of Section 1 of Article XII of the Constitution of Virginia, namely:

Amend the Constitution of Virginia by adding in Article X a section numbered 7-B as follows:
ARTICLE X
TAXATION AND FINANCE

Section 7-B. Transportation Funds.

(a) The General Assembly shall maintain permanent and separate Transportation Funds. The Commonwealth Transportation Fund, Transportation Trust Fund, Highway Maintenance and Operating Fund, any other Fund established by general law for transportation, and all subsidiary accounts and parts thereof, shall be deemed Transportation Funds for purposes of this section.

(b) There shall be deposited to the Transportation Funds all revenues dedicated to the Transportation Funds under provisions of general law, but excluding a general appropriation law, in effect on January 1, 2007. However, the General Assembly may by general law, but excluding a general appropriation law, make changes to the revenues dedicated and paid into the Transportation Funds. Money in the Transportation Funds may be invested as authorized by law.

(c) The General Assembly shall appropriate Transportation Funds only for purposes of (i) financing, acquiring, constructing, improving, maintaining, and operating transportation systems in the Commonwealth, and all purposes incidental thereto; (ii) furthering the interests of the Commonwealth in highways, public transportation, railways, seaports, and airports; and (iii) providing for the operations of state agencies related to transportation.

(d) The General Assembly may borrow from Transportation Funds for other purposes only by a vote equal to or greater than two-thirds plus one of the members voting in each house, including a majority of the members elected to that house. The name of each member voting and how he voted shall be recorded in the journal of each house. Any amount borrowed shall be repaid to the Transportation Funds, with reasonable interest, not later than the end of the fourth full fiscal year following the effective date of the borrowing.


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