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Gas Tax or Higher Tolls? Both Could Become Transportation Funding Options in Virginia

Virginia's gas tax is a flat rate tax, but changes could be in the making.

Next year’s Thanksgiving road trip may be a little more expensive as Virginia officials grapple with how to adequately fund Virginia’s growing transportation infrastructure needs.

Gov. Bob McDonnell said earlier this month that raising Virginia’s gas tax, tying it to inflation or otherwise adjusting it is not off the table.

“I’m looking at a range of things,” McDonnell told reporters in Richmond. “I can tell you that every other major tax in Virginia—the sales tax, the corporate income tax, and the [personal] income tax—all fluctuate with economic activity because they’re a percentage. ... We’re looking at whether or not ... it should fluctuate with economic activity, like every other tax in Virginia.”

Right now, Virginia’s state gas tax is set at a flat rate of 17.5 cents per gallon (not including any federal tax). When gasoline prices go up, Virginia does not see any additional revenue—in fact, Virginia sometimes sees a little bit less revenue when commuters cut back on driving due to high prices. 

In the District and in Maryland, the gas tax is 23.5 cents per gallon plus federal tax, also a flat rate. In late 2011, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley proposed applying the state’s sales tax of 6 percent to gasoline purchases, but the proposal didn’t pass.

Ninety-two percent of respondents to a Quinnipiac University poll of Virginia registered voters agreed it is “very important” or “somewhat important” to improve the state’s roads and highways.

Quinnipiac surveyed close to 1,500 registered voters across Virginia in early November.

According to the survey:

  • Voters oppose 57 - 38 percent putting tolls on parts of Interstate 95 in the Commonwealth to pay for road repairs.
  • Given a choice, however, between tolls or a higher gas tax, voters prefer tolls 56 - 32 percent.

The margin of error in the survey was +/- 2.6 percentage points.

Would you prefer more tolls on local highways or would you rather have a gas tax to pay for transportation infrastructure? Tell us in the comments box below!

Terry November 27, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Yes this will soak the middle class and the poor even more. Way to go.
joe brewer November 29, 2012 at 02:24 AM
The middle class and poor should pay more as they drive more. Tax the yearly mileage from the odometer on all Virginia vehicles and toll the out of state vehicles. Loudoun should put a 5 cent fee per gallon in order to build pedestrian bridges across our roadways. Not a tax as the Loudoun gas tax goes to the MWAA in 2018/2019, Ken Reid would ad a tax that the aurthority would get.
Huey December 10, 2012 at 05:53 AM
Tolls is the way to go. It's better for those who use the road to pay for it than to charge for a necessity that we all need regardless. Fairfax County gas is expensive as it is. You know it's ridiculous when Maryland, which has a higher tax on gas actually has CHEAPER gas than a lot of places in Virginia. If you toll a road that you want to improve it makes more sense. Think of it as a jar. The "rainy day fund" if you will. Here you kill 2 birds with one stone. On one end, you get to relieve traffic by sending the cheap ones to the back roads, and on the other, people that actually use a good actually pay for it. What good would me, living in Virginia Beach, paying for improvements to Route 7 benefit me as a VA Beach resident if I dont even live by it. That's the flaw with raising the gas tax. Northern Virginia has always had this problem, where they send more to Richmond than what they get back. Sure the aforementioned scenario would be the other way around (someone in Tysons paying more for gas to fix Va Beach roads) but my point is that the way that this article is written, it makes it seem as if transportation in Northern Virginia is the only expense Virginia has. Also, why are roads that haven't been paved any earlier than than 6 years getting repaved whereas certain local roads which have been beat up for more than 10 years don't get any rehabilitation? Am I the only one that sees something wrong with that?

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