- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 8, 2002

Northern Virginia transportation officials yesterday haggled over their share of a proposed half-percent sales-tax increase for road construction and transit projects, even though they have no money to spend.
Members of the newly created Northern Virginia Transportation Authority said they will likely have a hard time selling the proposed tax increase to their constituents unless they can assure them the money will be spent to solve their transportation problems.
"We are concerned that one jurisdiction having most of the funds being allocated to it if the tax is levied," said Sean T. Connaughton, a Republican and chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors.
The transportation authority was created to spend the estimated $5 billion that would be raised over 20 years if Northern Virginia voters approve in November a referendum that would increase their sales tax by a half-percent. Nine jurisdictions in the region would share the funds.
Mr. Connaughton said smaller jurisdictions, such as Arlington and Prince William counties, are concerned that their larger neighbor, Fairfax County, will gobble up the funds for such projects as mass transit to Washington Dulles International Airport.
"We want to be sure there is a proportional amount invested [in all the jurisdictions]," he said.
The transportation authority agreed to his suggestion that the money be spent proportionally among the region's jurisdictions.
In approving its bylaws yesterday, the panel also agreed that any single jurisdiction can veto a project it opposes, if the project would be built in that county.
That was particularly important to Arlington, which opposes widening Interstate 66 inside the Capital Beltway, a proposal that has strong support in other parts of Northern Virginia.
"There are so many ways to stop something. It puts the responsibility on the jurisdiction," said Christopher Zimmerman, a Democrat and chairman of the Arlington County Board of Supervisors.
The transportation authority consists of officials from Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax City, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park. Also appointed to the authority, which was created July 1, are members of the Virginia General Assembly and two members appointed by Gov. Mark R. Warner, a Democrat.
The rule requiring proportionality might work to Fairfax County's benefit. The state legislature already has identified two dozen projects that would receive $2.8 billion in funding, with the authority having discretion over how to spend the remaining $2.2 billion.
Fairfax County projects account for 50 percent of the $2.8 billion that already has been allocated, so the county would have to get significantly more than 50 percent of the remaining $2.2 billion to obtain its share.
Of course, it's all a moot point if voters reject the referendum. Proponents suffered a setback Tuesday when an anti-tax candidate, Republican Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, soundly defeated Democrat Cathy A. Belter, a referendum supporter, in a special election for a state Senate seat in the southwestern section of Fairfax County.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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