Grover Norquist group opposes Virginia GOP governor’s tax plan

Chris Moody

Republican Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on Tuesday released a proposal to replace the state's gasoline tax with a higher sales tax to pay for the state's transportation programs. But it may have one vocal opponent: Grover Norquist.

McDonnell's plan intends to raise $3.1 billion in revenue over the next five years by increasing the state's 5 percent sales tax to 5.8; mandating a $100 fee for vehicles that run on alternative fuel sources; and increasing car registration costs. The proposal assumes a $1 billion windfall from a federal Internet sales tax that has yet to be passed in Washington.

But the state affairs manager at Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, Will Upton, argues that the outgoing governor could achieve the same goal of increasing funding for transportation without raising taxes by prioritizing spending cuts elsewhere. Upton dismissed the plan as "a Trojan horse" that will increase taxes.

"The plan as it stands now fails in its goal to prioritize transportation spending while avoiding tax increases," Upton wrote. "More tax increases simply cannot solve Virginia’s transportation problems—only statutory (or constitutional) reform that allows proper allocation of its resources can keep Virginia moving without sacrificing its engine of economic growth."

Upton offered a list of solutions that involves lowering the proposed new sales tax, eliminating taxes on diesel fuels and the new car registration fee and prioritizing transportation funding.

The move by ATR furthers the notion that Norquist, the anti-tax conservative activist, has few qualms opposing top-level Republicans who go astray—even slightly.