DALLAS – Virginia would raise an additional $1.3 billion over 10 years through higher taxes and fees to fund the maintenance and expansion of transit systems under a transportation funding plan developed by a seven-member revenue panel.

New revenue streams proposed by a Virginia transit funding panel could include a regional sales tax dedicated to maintenance of WMATA’s Metro system.
New revenue streams proposed by a Virginia transit funding panel could include a regional sales tax dedicated to maintenance of WMATA’s Metro system.

The final report from the Transit Capital Project Revenue Advisory Board outlined Tuesday to the Commonwealth Transportation Board recommends several statewide tax proposals as well as dedicated local levies in northern Virginia that would help provide the region’s contribution to the Metro rail system operated by Washington Area Mass Transit Authority.

The higher taxes would bring in $130 million to $140 million annually when fully implemented, according to the revenue report.

The proposal includes an 0.25% increase in the statewide sales tax, bringing it to 5.55% in most of Virginia and 6.25% in northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, and a 0.5% increase in the state gasoline sales tax to 5.6%.

Regionally specific tax increases proposed in the revenue plan for northern Virginia and Hampton Roads include raising the regional sales taxes on gasoline to 3.3% from the current 2.1%, a $12 per year tax on utility bills, and raising the local sales tax to 1.2% in areas served by Metro.

The revenue report recommends that at least 80% of the state’s transit funding be directed to maintaining a state of good repair on existing system, with only 20% to fund major expansions if necessary. Total trips on Virginia’s 44 public transit agencies rose 33% from 2005 to 2015, the panel said, to more than 200 million trips per year.

The General Assembly would have to approve any of the recommended tax changes, said Marty Williams, a member of the CTB and chairman of the revenue panel.

“The report is not going to tell the legislature, ‘You need to raise all these taxes and get off your duff and fund these things.’ We recognize the fact that the discretion is in the legislature,” Williams said.

“I know it’s going to be a tough sell at the General Assembly, but our job is to show them where the money could come from,” he said.

A new governor will replace the term-limited Gov. Terry McAuliffe in January, just before the General Assembly convenes for the 2018 session, said Virginia transportation secretary Aubrey Layne.

“It’s going to be a big decision for the commonwealth, and the new governor is going to have to deal with transit, and primarily WMATA,” Layne said. “This is going to be key as to how that problem is solved from the commonwealth’s perspective because of our funding needs.”

Virginia should be prepared if Congress decides to no longer provide the current $150 million per year federal contribution to WMATA and local governments have to make up the shortfall, the revenue panel said.

A funding proposal released in April by WMATA chief executive officer Paul J. Wiedefeld calls for a dedicated revenue stream totaling $500 million per year from Maryland, Virginia, and local governments in the region to fund Metro’s long-term infrastructure needs.

Metro’s capital needs far exceed the available funding, Wiedefeld said.

Metro has $25 billion in total unfunded capital needs, he said, with $15.5 billion of critical capital projects over the next 10 years.

The board of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments last week unanimously approved a call for dedicated but unspecified revenue sources that WMATA could use to support bonds for long-term capital expenses.

Virginia would contribute an additional $150 million per year under Wiedefeld’s plan.

A group headed by former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is expected to issue funding recommendations for WMATA in November.

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