- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2002

A bill that could lead to higher income and sales taxes for Northern Virginians yesterday was muscled through a House of Delegates committee that had killed it a day earlier.
At the request of House Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr., Amherst Republican, the Appropriations Committee voted again and approved the measure 16-8 with one abstention among the 25-member committee.
The bill would allow Northern Virginia voters to increase their income taxes by as much as a half-percent to pay for school construction. And the 4.5-percent sales tax could be raised by a half-percent to pay for $2.3 billion worth of transportation projects. The same committee on Monday killed the bill, in defiance of the House leadership.
Most of those who had objected to the bill did not like a provision that would have mandated the transportation bill be voted on first in November before the income-tax referendum could be held. That provision was stripped out of the bill so the two referendums would occur at the same time next fall.
In a letter to delegates expected to vote on the bill this week, Arthur Purves, president of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance, urged lawmakers to kill the bill.
"[The bill] rewards state and local government for neglecting transportation and school construction during a period of unprecedented revenue increases," Mr. Purves wrote, citing a state budget that has increased $8 billion more over the last 20 years than needed to keep up with population growth.
Earlier in the day, the Senate Finance Committee brought back to life a bill that could raise the sales tax statewide by a half-cent to pay for education needs as well as a half-cent increase for transportation projects in Northern Virginia.
Both bills are expected to be voted on by both chambers this week. With such sharp disagreements over the legislation, a House-Senate conference is likely to hammer out differences, even though compromise is not likely.
Gov. Mark R. Warner said on WTOP Radio's "Ask the Governor" call-in program yesterday that he hopes legislators will agree to a statewide referendum to pay for education needs. Mr. Wilkins is strongly opposed to such an effort, saying it would lead to increased disparity in spending on education throughout the state.
"I would look to find ways to see if we could forge a consensus to address the issue on a statewide basis," Mr. Warner said.
"We have unmet needs in Northern Virginia, but again, let me take you to some of these schools in Southside and Southwest Virginia because they have equally unmet needs."
Mr. Warner, a Democrat, said that if there is no resolution on the referendum question by the time the Republican-controlled General Assembly session ends March 9, he will send up a bill during the April veto-override session.

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