VIRGINIA BEACH-- Some state lawmakers are proposing a 1% local sales tax hike to pay for transportation needs in Hampton Roads.

They say the tax will raise about $175 million a year for the region.

Citizens would get a chance to vote on the tax increase through a ballot referendum and if approved, the money would be spent here, Del. Chris Stolle (R-83rd D.) said Thursday.

He and other lawmakers said the Commonwealth must raise between $1 and $1.5 billion a year in additional revenue to meet maintenance and construction needs. Tourists visiting Hampton Roads would also be contributing to the revenue stream.

Virginia currently raises transportation funds from motor vehicle sales and use tax, motor vehicle registration and recordation taxes, but mostly motor fuels taxes. The state gas tax was last raised in 1986 to 17.5 cents per gallon, Stolle remarked.

He added, 'At current funding levels, there are more transportation needs than we can afford, and there are future needs that will continue to be unmet for several years because we cannot afford to maintain the roads we already have. Without increasing revenues in some way, funding will continually fall short. It is irresponsible to continue to kick the can down the road for others to solve.'

State Senator Jeff McWaters (R-8th District) noted that the geography of Hampton Roads is unique compared to the rest of the state.

'Bridges and tunnels are costly to build and repair, and the salt from the ocean speeds up the deterioration of our roads. Year after year, there has been little support in the General Assembly for our calls for increased funding for transportation. This will not be the only option considered this session, but we feel that this proposal can pass the General Assembly and provide an option to increase transportation funding for our area.'

The lawmakers recognize a local sales tax increase was put to the voters before and defeated. They argue that ten years have gone by and the need has for transportation funding has only increased.

'We want to give voters this option again,' McWaters stated.

In the House, the bill is co-sponsored by Del. Stolle and Del. Ron Villanueva (R-21st D./Va. Beach). Senator McWaters filed a companion bill on the Senate side.

The bills will be introduced during the 2013 General Assembly session, which begins in January.

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