On a day when high winds prevented Governor Bob McDonnell from flying into Roanoke, he joined local leaders by phone to tout his transportation plan.
"We've waited a long time to be able to get a transportation solution," McDonnell said during a news conference Thursday morning. "This is the year. This is the time to do it," he said.
McDonnell wants to eliminate the state's gas tax, and replace it with an increase in the sales tax and other fees. A plan that should generate an additional 800- million dollars a year by the end of the decade drew support from the region's business leaders.
Joyce Waugh is President of the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce. "It certainly is not a perfect plan," Waugh said in an interview, "but what we like about it is it would grow, that revenue for transportation would grow over time."
It also a brought strong endorsement from Roanoke's Democratic Mayor David Bowers, who said the plan would accelerate the return of passenger rail to Roanoke.
"I think the Governor has presented a thoughtful, serious proposal," Bowers told us in an interview. "There are some parts I don't like, some parts I would do differently, but I think it's important to Virginians and I think Virginians are saying to me and other elected leaders, let's get this done now."
We asked the Governor if he feared the fight over redistricting in the State Senate could derail his plan. He said he believed lawmakers would rise above partisan differences and do what's right for Virginia. He'll need every vote. The proposal faces an uncertain future when it comes up in General Assembly committees next week.