PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) - On March 14, the General Assembly began a special session on the stats budget, and transportation makes up a big part of that.
Since then, State Senator Louise Lucas, (D) Portsmouth, has submitted a bill on March 21 to delay the tolls at least until 2014.
"We have been thrown a lemon, and we are trying to make lemonade," said Lucas.
The 60-word budget amendment calls for toll postponement at the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels until January 1, 2014.
"This will give us time to have the governor revisit this contract. It is very flawed," Lucas added.
Lucas hopes with time the heavily criticized deal between VDOT and the Elizabeth River Crossings Partners can be reworked or killed.
"We are all on different paths. We are like different branches of the military, and we are going down the road trying to get a victory," said Lucas.
On one of those paths is Norfolk Delegate Ken Alexander who, along with hundreds of concerned citizens, hired Attorney Pat McSweeney to file an injunction stopping the project, citing that is may be unconstitutional.
"If taxes are going to be raised then the General Assembly has to do it," McSwenney said.
McSweeney successfully convinced the Supreme Court of Virginia previously that un-elected people can not raise taxes and fees, as they are not elected by the people.
Delegate Chris Jones, (R) Suffolk, is pushing the "Termination for Convenience" clause listed in the comprehensive agreement between VDOT and its private partners. The clause states, "The department (of transportation) may terminate this agreement...at any time...if it determines that...a termination is in the best interests of the department."
Jones told WAVY.com, "If we can not have the tolls reduced, or the timing of the tolls delayed then until the new tunnel is contracted, I do not think this is a good deal for the region."
Critics have argued that state leaders are not unified in their attacks on the tolls.
Lucas countered, "We are all working towards the same end and that is to bring relief to the people we are elected to represent. We are all doing a different task, and we hope one of these (strategies) will work."
During the stand-down time of Lucas' budget amendment, she wants a referendum to increase both sales and gasoline tax to finance road projects.
"I want to see if the voters of Hampton Roads have the appetite now for a sales tax or gasoline tax," Lucas said.
Back in 2002, a referendum to raise the state sales tax by one cent on the dollar was defeated at the polls. The referendum was easily beat across Hampton Roads, except in Norfolk and Portsmouth, where support for the tax hike was 48.5 percent.
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