- The Washington Times - Friday, November 1, 2002

U.S. Sen. George Allen yesterday broke with Republican Party leaders in his state by coming out against the Northern Virginia transportation referendum.
"I will vote no," Mr. Allen told The Washington Times in a telephone interview.
U.S. Sen. John W. Warner, U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III and most of the Northern Virginia Republican delegation in the General Assembly support the referendum.
Mr. Allen says he isn't pressuring others to follow suit, but is letting people know how he is voting.
"My view is that people have the right to make decisions. I have listened, read and discussed it with both sides. This is not me trying to tell anyone how to vote or what to think, but [my wife], Susan, and I will vote no," he said.
The ballot initiative asks voters in nine Northern Virginia jurisdictions to raise the sales tax by one-half percent to fund transportation initiatives in the region in an attempt to relieve gridlock.
"The level of congestion now is at the bare minimum of tolerance," Sen. Warner said on Wednesday at an appearance with Gov. Mark R. Warner, Democrat.
While Mr. Allen had been silent on how he would vote, he said his announcement should "come as no surprise."
"I don't think the proponents have made their case that this is what we should do. It doesn't seem to me to be in the best interest to raise taxes," he said.
Mr. Allen lives in Mount Vernon with his wife and three children and regularly commutes on the congested Northern Virginia roads.
A poll released this week showed that voters were nearly evenly divided about the referendum. Of 400 randomly selected registered voters surveyed by the independent Mason-Dixon Polling and Research Inc., 49 percent said they supported raising the tax, while 43 percent said they opposed it. Eight percent of those surveyed were undecided.
The telephone poll was conducted Oct. 23-25, when the region was caught up in the drama of sniper attacks. Two persons suspected of killing at least 10 and injuring three during a three-week shooting spree in the area were apprehended in the early hours of Oct. 24.
Mr. Allen said he had listened to the arguments of both sides of the referendum issue and decided there were better alternatives than raising the sales tax. "The solution would be to adhere to the fiscal discipline of utilizing funds that are allocated for transportation and not diverting them for something else," he said.
Gov. Warner and other advocates of the referendum say Richmond does not have the money to return to Northern Virginia for transportation projects because of the commonwealth's $1.5 billion budget shortfall.
"The alternative is doing nothing. This is not a perfect solution," Gov. Warner said during the appearance with Sen. Warner.
Gov. Warner is expected to be in the region again today to recognize the organizations supporting the sales-tax increase.
Mr. Allen, in the meantime, will be out advocating for passage of the general obligation bond for higher education. In addition to the sales-tax referendum, voters will be asked to approve $900 million in bonds for state colleges and universities. Mr. Allen will be campaigning at events in Middletown and Front Royal for passage of the bonds, which he calls a priority for the state.
"These bonds do not require a tax increase," he said. "They are very fiscally prudent and [fulfill] a top priority for the state, which is education."

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