Virginia GOP candidates won't touch Bob McDonnell's road tax plan

Local,Virginia,Transportation,Steve Contorno

Republican candidates for statewide office in Virginia want nothing to do with Gov. Bob McDonnell's plan to fund much-needed roadwork, despite their leader's popularity heading into critical elections.

McDonnell's plan to generate $3 billion for transportation by eliminating the gas tax and raising the sales tax passed the House last week, but without support from Del. Rob Bell, a Charlottesville Republican running for attorney general, and Del. Scott Lingamfelter, a lieutenant governor candidate from Woodbridge.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who is vying to replace McDonnell as governor, backed another plan, dubbed the conservative alternative, which kept the sales tax at 5 percent and instead indexed the gas tax to inflation.

Sens. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, and Steve Martin, R-Chesterfield, both voted for the Cuccinelli-backed alternative. Obenshain is running against Bell for attorney general while Martin is one of seven Republicans running for lieutenant governor.

Outside Richmond, lieutenant governor candidates Pete Snyder, a businessman, and Prince William County Board Chairman Corey Stewart are against McDonnell's transportation plan, too. Snyder called it a tax hike. "It's a terrible bill," Stewart said. "It weakens our brand and fundamentally it doesn't even solve the problem."

The lack of support for what would be McDonnell's signature legislative legacy demonstrates a party that is beginning to leave the Republican governor behind at a time when he remains an extremely popular figure.

Most Democrats have come out against McDonnell's transportation plan, as well -- except presumptive gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe. The former Democratic National Committee chairman has not taken a stance, instead allowing factions in the GOP to wage war over the proposal.

"If you're Terry, you're saying, 'What did I do to deserve this?' " said former state Democratic Party Chairman Paul Goldman. "You definitely have to believe in God."

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