By Alex Bridges
The Virginia State Senate on Friday killed legislation that sought to protect the transportation trust fund from efforts to use the money for other purposes.
Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, sponsored a proposed constitutional amendment that would require the General Assembly to maintain separate transportation funds. All money dedicated to transportation would go in the fund.
In order for the legislature to borrow from the funds for purposes other than transportation, the amendment would require a two-thirds vote plus one of the members voting in each house. The General Assembly would have to repay the loan with interest within four years.
The state has a track record of using transportation funds for other purposes, according to Obenshain. As transportation remains one of the state's top priorities Obenshain said that funding needed protection.
The senate debated over the legislation and some members argued that while the state has borrowed money from transportation, funds were repaid with interest within 24 months. One senator argued that the state should have an amendment to keep money from being taken out of the general fund for transportation purposes.
Sen. A. Donald McEachin, D-Richmond, offered a substitute bill that he claimed would create a "double lock box" and further protect funds. But Obenshain expressed opposition to McEachin's substitution when the Democratic senator explained that the legislation would also prohibit the state from using surplus funds for transportation purposes.
The Senate voted 22-17 in favor of McEachin's substitute. Immediately following the vote, Obenshain made a motion to strike his bill from the calendar. The Senate voted 36-2 in favor of Obenshain's motion. Striking the bill from the calendar kills the legislation this session.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org