- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 16, 2002

RICHMOND The Senate yesterday approved legislation that would set up a statewide vote on increasing the sales tax to benefit schools and regional-tax referendums in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia to pay for road improvements.
The 32-8 vote to advance Sen. Charles Colgan's bill to the House of Delegates came amid a rising bipartisan chorus that the increases would not nearly meet the needs for transportation and education and that a special legislative session is needed to fix the problems.
Besides Mr. Colgan's bill the only one still in play for a statewide approach to solving school-funding problems the Senate also voted 25-to-15 for Newport News Sen. Martin E. Williams' bill to authorize a Hampton Roads referendum on a 1 percent sales tax increase for transportation.
Mr. Colgan's bill originally would have authorized only the statewide referendum on a half-cent sales-tax increase to fund schools and a Northern Virginia referendum to add another half cent to the sales tax to ease the traffic gridlock in Washington's suburbs.
But Mr. Williams amended the bill to add a 1-cent Hampton Roads sales-tax referendum.
"I have never seen transportation in Virginia as bad off as it is right now," said Sen. Kenneth W. Stolle, Virginia Beach Republican. who supported Mr. Colgan's amended bill. "But if the members of the Senate believe we are fixing transportation with two regional taxes, or that we could begin to fix it with a half-cent sales tax statewide, you're living in a dream world."
"What do we need? We need a special session, we need to have time to fix this. We didn't get into this in one day and we're not going to get out of it in three weeks" before the 2002 legislative session ends.
Despite the strong margin by which Mr. Colgan's bill cleared the Senate, it likely faces death in the House, where Fairfax Delegate James H. Dillard Jr."s legislation for a half-cent referendum on school-construction needs died at House Speaker Vance Wilkins' direction in the Appropriations Committee.


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