- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2002

RICHMOND (AP) Gov. Mark R. Warner challenged Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr. yesterday to allow the House of Delegates to vote on a Senate bill authorizing a statewide sales-tax referendum and pledged to campaign for it if it passed.
Mr. Warner had made no secret of his support for Sen. Charles J. Colgan's bill to submit the sales-tax referendum for public school needs to voters statewide and give Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia voters a say on sales-tax increases to fund local road projects.
The Democratic governor for weeks had traveled the state lamenting the state's $3.8 billion shortfall and what he said were deep needs in education and transportation, but he had not staked out a firm position.
Yesterday's news conference, however, put him squarely opposite Mr. Wilkins, who staunchly opposed a statewide sales-tax referendum this fall and had directed the death of a similar bill in the Appropriations Committee this session.
"Today, I am announcing my full support for Senator Colgan's bill, and I'm calling on the House of Delegates to get the bill out of committee and onto the floor for a vote. We should not be afraid to give the people of Virginia a chance to be heard," Mr. Warner said.
"Despite our efforts to stretch every dollar, we continue to see critical, unmet needs in education and transportation. Parents see these unmet needs in education with literally thousands of trailers [housing classrooms], classrooms that are deteriorating," he said.
The bill by Mr. Colgan, Prince William Democrat, won final Senate passage on a 32-8 vote last week before advancing to the House.
Mr. Wilkins said he opposes the referendum on several grounds.

Legislation requiring judges to post "In God We Trust" signs in state courtrooms is on its way to Mr. Warner's desk, where its fate is uncertain.
The governor has not taken a position on the bill and will have his counsel analyze whether it is constitutional, spokeswoman Ellen Qualls said.
Even if Mr. Warner signs the bill, Virginians are unlikely to see the signs displayed in courtrooms anytime soon. The Senate has added an amendment requiring the state to pay for the signs, but the proposed state budget has no money allocated for that purpose.
Delegate Robert G. Marshall, Prince William Republican, did not object to the Senate amendment when his bill was returned to the House yesterday. Delegates voted 94-5 to accept the amendment and send the bill to Mr. Warner's desk.
The House and Senate have passed slightly different versions of a bill to require public schools to post "In God We Trust" signs. That legislation, which does not include the funding requirement, has not yet been sent to the governor.

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