County supervisors and regional elected representatives are gearing up once again to press their case to restore transportation funding from the state.
In 2018, the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, a major planner and funder of regional projects, saw a chunk of it diverted by the General Assembly to instead support Metro. The NVTA is expected to lose out on more than $100 million per year, affecting projects in Loudoun that were scheduled to get some of that money.
Last year, a bill to establish new fees and taxes in the Interstate 81 corridor to fund improvements on the highway also included a provision that would distribute some of that revenue—estimated at $20 million a year—to the NVTA. But the region is still coming up short on the local transportation funding that the NVTA was created to collect and allocate.
Supervisors at their meeting Oct. 2 authorized County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) to sign on to a letter from the elected heads of Northern Virginia localities calling on Gov. Ralph Northam and the General Assembly to restore all funding to the NVTA, using state money.
“We urge you to restore the remaining $82 million in the budget by considering substantial use of state-wide funding sources that would limit additional burden on Northern Virginia taxpayers already paying for extensive transportation projects, including WMATA, in the region,” the letter reads. “This money is critical to ensuring that the region can address critical transportation challenges needed to support economic expansion and growth.”
Randall, the current vice chairwoman of the authority, said her own statements would be much stronger.
However, supervisors also acknowledged at their meeting that it is unlikely the state will pick up the burden of regional transportation funding—a state responsibility. Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) said the region’s leaders and lobbyists should also be working toward the best compromise on solutions.
“The reality is, what was on the table in the General Assembly session last year, which was the hotel tax, was not that bad for us, and our industry didn’t really object to that, as opposed to some other type of tax which would potentially be more onerous for us,” Letourneau said. “I’m all for that pressure to begin with … but I have a feeling that’s probably not where it’s going to end up.”
Randall agreed, and said she’d be pushing for options that don’t levy yet more taxes on people living in the region.
“If funds are to be returned to NVTA at all, really the biggest discussion is, will those funds be from Northern Virginia taxpayers again?” Randall said. “So, all those other types of funding mechanisms are not being discussed at this time.”
Members of the General Assembly—whomever they are after November’s election that includes all 140 seats—must submit requests to draft bills by 5 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 5 to meet the prefiling deadline. The 2020 session is expected to convene on Jan. 8, 2020 and adjourn March 7.