[Special thanks to Virginians for High-Speed Rail for their input on this story.]
Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin sent a bill to the Commonwealth’s General Assembly earlier this week that would cut an estimated $1.8 billion from the transportation trust fund, including nearly $260 million in cuts to the Commonwealth’s passenger rail and public transportation programs.
Virginians for High-Speed Rail (VHSR) is reporting that the bulk of the cuts come from the suspension of, and changes to, the gas tax user fee that will cut passenger rail funding by $32 million and public transportation funding by about $107 million. These reductions are on top of the $118 million in cuts to the passenger rail and public transit funds from the elimination of the sales tax for groceries dedicated to transportation projects.
The special session ended without either chamber taking up the bill (H.B. 6001 and S.B. 6001). But the threat isn’t over! The Virginia General Assembly must reconvene on April 27th where the Youngkin Administration is expected to continue his push for a gas tax holiday.
What’s not clear is whether the bill will have any meaningful benefits for voters. When asked if Virginians would see the benefits from the suspension of the gas tax, the Governor stated, “We can’t guarantee anything”. This is just one of the reasons why a gas tax holiday is bad policy:
- The Commonwealth is the only state to propose a suspension of the gas tax without replacing the lost transportation funding;
- Virginia is the only state to concurrently remove a dedicated transportation funding source at the same time as proposing a gas tax suspension; and
- Studies have shown that while an average Virginia driver may save around $0.30 or less a day, oil companies will reap millions in additional profits.
Governor Youngkin’s goal of helping Virginian’s cope with increased fuel costs is a worthy one. However, draining the Commonwealth’s transportation trust fund will hurt passengers, reduce options for travelers looking to avoid congested highways and avoid the gas pump entirely, and ultimately make the state less economically competitive.
Rail Passengers is joining VHSR in asking Virginia’s General Assembly to reinvest in its infrastructure, not cut vital funding!
If you live in Virginia, please take a minute to ask your legislator to oppose these cuts to our passenger rail and transit funds.
[Please note: action is only available for residents of Virginia.]