Transportation bill remains unresolved as clock ticks

Posted at 6:06 PM, Feb 18, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-18 18:06:31-05

RICHMOND, Va.--With just one week left until lawmakers and senators leave the General Assembly, Republicans and Democrats are scrambling to negotiate on some key pieces of legislation.

Transportation and Medicaid expansion are among the two biggest issues that remain unresolved. Although transportation reform has yet to clear both chambers, the House and Senate have each passed their own respective bills that result in taxpayers paying more toward transportation budget shortfalls.

"It's going to be a very busy week," state delegate Ben Cline, a prominent conservative, said.

Henrico Republican Senator Walter Stosch says the tasks at hand will be tough, but will have to get done.

Transportation reform is being handled by a conference committee that was formed to resolve the differences of both chambers.

"We describe it like a balloon, if you push it in one place it comes out somewhere else," Stosch said.

The concern among many in leadership is that the more the House compromises with the Senate, they risk alienating House Republicans who voted for the House version in the first place.

"If a big tax increase comes out in the final plan, conservatives in the House who may have voted for the House bill are going to reverse course," Cline said.

If that is the case, look for leaders to look for House Democrats support.

House Democrats have not objected to gas tax increases but have raised concerns about taking money from the general fund and putting it toward transportation.

"It is going to be tough," St Delegate Vivian Watts, a Democrat who sits on the conference committee, said.

"Cutting significant funds from the General Fun will be difficult," Watts added.

One thing is clear, both parties want to be done with the issue of transportation by the end of this week and do not want to come back to Richmond for a special session.