- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 25, 2001

RICHMOND (AP) A state lawmaker from Fairfax has proposed legislation that would allow residents of any locality in Virginia to vote to raise their sales tax rate by a half-cent to pay for school construction.
The General Assembly will consider Delegate James H. Dillard II's idea during a 60-day session that begins in January.
Mr. Dillard, a Republican, said his goal is to eliminate the trailer classrooms common throughout fast-growing communities. Fairfax County, for example, could raise more than $65 million a year from such a referendum.
"It just seems like it's the right thing to do," said Mr. Dillard, co-chairman of the House Education Committee. "It would solve a lot of problems we're facing."
Having a separate referendums on education costs also might smooth the way for Northern Virginia's proposed sales tax referendum to pay for highway projects. A feud among the region's lawmakers over whether to earmark some of that money for education blocked its passage this year and could do the same at the 2002 session.
House Appropriations Committee Co-chairman Vincent F. Callahan Jr. of Fairfax County and Transportation Committee Co-chairman John A. "Jack" Rollison III of Prince William County support Mr. Dillard's proposal. However, the two Republicans say their first priority is the transportation referendum.
A sales tax referendum for education faces more skepticism in other regions of the state, where many of the Republicans who control the General Assembly are likely to view the effort as nothing more than a fancy way to raise taxes.
"I don't think we're willing to go for a general tax increase right now," said House Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr., Amherst County Republican. "I don't think that's going to fly."
There also could be resistance in the state Senate, said Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw, Fairfax Democrat. He is pushing a referendum only in Northern Virginia, with the money from the tax increase being split between transportation and education.
Mr. Saslaw said Mr. Dillard's bill will be rejected by lawmakers eager to prove their anti-tax credentials.
"I can flap my arms and fly to the moon faster than that will happen," said Mr. Saslaw.
The Northern Virginia sales tax referendum was a major issue in the governor's race. Democrat Mark R. Warner supported the proposal, and political analysts have said his victory is evidence that voters want more say over government spending decisions.
Mr. Warner's Republican opponent, Mark L. Earley, warned that the referendum effort would spread, leading to a general tax increase statewide.


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