Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist sent member of Virginia's General Assembly Monday warning them that voting to index the state's gas tax for inflation would break his organization's, Americans for Tax Reform, no-new-tax pledge, which many of them have signed.
"I write you today to express ATR’s opposition to any proposal to index the gas tax to inflation because simply, this proposal is a job-killing tax increase," Norquist wrote. "For those members of the Virginia Legislature who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, voting to index the gas tax to inflation, without any complete offsets, would be in clear violation of the promise you made to your constituents and the people of Virginia to oppose any and all efforts to increase taxes."
Proposals are on the table to index Virginia's 17.5 cent-per-gallon gas tax, which helps fund the state's woefully cash-strapped transportation infrastructure, for inflation.
Gov. Bob McDonnell has hinted recently that he would be open to indexing the gas tax, which has not been raised since 1986. McDonnell has laid out the case that during that time the cost of infrastructure maintenance and the price of new projects have risen dramatically while the purchasing power of the gas tax in real dollars has dropped. McDonnell has said he has no plans of supporting wholesale tax increases during the upcoming session.
McDonnell has not signed the no-tax pledge, but officials from his administration – chief of staff Martin Kent and senior policy advisor Jasen Eige - traveled to Washington, D.C. Tuesday to meet with Norquist to discuss policy matters that affect the commonwealth, according to McDonnell spokesman Jeff Caldwell.
Nine of the 20 Republican state senators along with 21 of 67 Republican state delegates, plus Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, have signed Norquist's no-tax pledge. No local state delegates or senators have signed the no-tax pledge.
While McDonnell has began making the case for indexing the state's gas tax for inflation, Norquist wrote that the commonwealth's transportation funding problems have nothing to do with the gas tax.
"The transportation woes Virginia faces are not because of the gas tax," Norquist wrote. "Richmond has spent too much money; in other words, it’s a spending problem not a revenue problem. If spending had been capped at the rate of inflation and population growth, Virginia would have spent $21.6 billion less between 1999 and 2009, saving more than enough to address Virginia’s transportation needs."
McDonnell said last week he will be proposing a major transportation legislative package to the General Assembly, which includes $500 million a year in new funding by 2018, ahead of the session which starts in January.