Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on Monday will ceremoniously sign into law the signature legislative achievement of his four-year term: a historic transportation funding package that will raise taxes to pay for much-needed roadwork on the state's congested highways.
The Republican leader will sign the bill on the south steps of the Virginia State Capitol and will be joined by labor groups and lawmakers, including House Speaker Bill Howell, R-Stafford, who helped usher the bill to safe passage despite significant opposition from within his party.
"First and foremost, it's a jobs bill, and critical to future economic growth in the state," said McDonnell spokesman Paul Logan. "The signing of this historic and bipartisan transportation bill will make it easier to bring jobs to Virginia and will improve the quality of life for citizens for years to come."
The bill raises $880 million a year in revenue for the transportation fund, in part by raising the state sales tax from 5 percent to 5.3 percent starting July 1. Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads taxpayers will see the sales tax jump a full penny to 6 percent to generate an additional $520 million annually for projects in those heavily congested regions.
Residents in the D.C. suburbs will also see taxes increase if they sell a home, buy a car or spend a night in a hotel. The 17.5-cents-per-gallon gas tax will be eliminated statewide and replaced with a 3.5 percent tax on gasoline and a 6 percent tax on diesel at the wholesale level.
Fuel taxes could go higher if Congress does not pass a bill that allows Virginia to collect sales taxes on online purchases. That measure, which would raise about $1 billion over five years, recently passed the U.S. Senate but its fate is uncertain in the House.
Monday's bill signing will be a much-needed respite for McDonnell from weeks of negative coverage about the governor's relationship with embattled Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams Sr. The FBI reportedly is investigating whether Williams received special treatment from the governor in exchange for gifts he lavished upon the McDonnell family, including a $15,000 catered dinner for one of McDonnell's daughters.
The event in Richmond will also reverberate in the Virginia gubernatorial race and highlight a major difference between the two candidates who want to replace McDonnell. Democrat Terry McAuliffe has been a staunch supporter of the transportation bill and has repeatedly praised McDonnell for championing it.
Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli opposed the transportation package as a massive tax increase. He recently said that he will not try to repeal it as governor, though he will present his own roads plan in the coming weeks.