PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY/AP) - Governor Bob McDonnell appears to be backing off his support of State Senator Louise Lucas' amendment to delay tolls on the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels.
McDonnell voiced support for delaying tolls and admits his administration helped Lucas write the amendment.
The governor even placed an amendment in the comprehensive agreement between VDOT and the Elizabeth River Crossings that gives him the right to delay the collection of tolls.
But, McDonnell appears to have had a change of heart.
Last Friday, 10 On Your Side asked McDonnell if he would veto a constitutionally cleaned up version of Lucas' amendment. He answered, "No."
Lucas' amendment aims to delay the payment of tolls by motorists until Jan. 2014.
A little over a week later, when asked if people will not pay tolls until Jan. 2014, the governor said, "I can't say that yet. We are still looking for resources. Unless the budget provides me some new resources, we will have to find other ways through existing monies in the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) budget in order to get that done."
"Wow!" State Senator Louise Lucas, (D) Portsmouth, said, "I don't like this squishy, squishy, 'If I get new money' kind of talk. That bothers me."
Lucas is concerned the governor may be back tracking.
"What you are telling me now is all brand new to me. I have not heard anything about, 'If the Legislature provides new money to me'."
But, there is no new money in the budget for the state to pay down the tolls. The $125 million it would take to pay for the delay would likely come from federal bonds called Garvee Bonds.
"We have new Garvee Bonds, $400 million in new Garvee Bonds. Take it out of that," Lucas said.
Governor McDonnell said, "What we are going to do is try to find ways with existing resources. There is no new money, unfortunately, in the budget that the legislature has provided to me, so with the existing resources, we are going to follow through with help and get this deal done."
Senate Democrats believe they will have the final say thanks to a 20-20 split in the Senate.
"If our amendments are not approved,...the governor has no budget. It is that plain and simple, and 20 of us are going to hold to that."
Lucas doesn't want to be pitted against Northern Virginia in getting toll abatement funds. Northern Virginia flexes more political muscle, but Lucas hopes both regions will get what they need.
Late Thursday, legislative negotiators agreed on a new $85 billion budget that will direct state spending for the next two years.
According to Suffolk Delegate Chris Jones, (R), a budget conferee, the amendment to delay tolls was not in the agreement.
Jones added that it was unnecessary to put the Lucas' amendment in the budget, as McDonnell placed a toll abatement amendment in the comprehensive agreement between VDOT and the Elizabeth River Crossing, the public-private partnership building the project.
"The indications were that the McDonnell Administration was going to find the money to do the toll abatement on the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels...," Jones said.
The cost for the abatement will be between $97 and $125 million. It is unknown at this point where that money will come from.
The agreement sets up a final vote on the spending bill by April 17 by the Virginia House and Senate.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Norfolk Police are investigating an assault on a man Thursday night.
Tributes from those who knew Nelson Mandela began pouring in from across the globe, including words from two Hampton Roads leaders.
A company has been hired to complete the repairs to the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge on the Outer Banks, but how long those repairs will take remains unknown.