- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 2, 2002

Campaign funding tells a great deal about the true nature of an issue. In Northern Virginia, where voters are being cajoled into approving a tax increase and open-ended regional taxing authority, the forces peddling the tax are extremely well-financed, while the groups opposing the tax are mostly ad-hoc, poorly organized and woefully under-funded. With a war chest of about $2 million, supporters of the new tax increase have had an easy time peppering the area with roadside signs and TV commercials portraying the tax increase as piddling, and the payoff (supposedly in the form of new roads) as enormous. Meanwhile, the citizen groups fighting the tax increase have barely raised $200,000 to get their message across.
The uneven contest is interesting because the tax increase is being sold as a means of relieving congestion for the benefit of the average citizen. Yet the grass-roots and Joe Citizen types are not the ones pouring money into pushing the tax increase; area business interests, especially developers such as John "Til" Hazel, are. Developers have funneled massive donations of $25,000 to $50,000 into the disingenuously named Citizens for Better Transportation (CBT) the primary front group for proponents of the tax increase.
Could it be that these interests see in the tax and the new taxing authority a means to publicly fund new roads, pushing even deeper into suburbia that will facilitate their development of these areas? It is a pattern that we have seen before. But taxpayers should not be financing the extension of sprawl and the inevitable increase in gridlock it will bring.
Voters should remember that the "1/2 cent to get traffic moving" slogan of the CBT is as disingenuous as the name of the CBT itself. The increase in the sales tax from 4.5 percent to 5 percent would cost the typical Virginia family about $100 per year. The total revenue to be raised is estimated at $5 billion over a 20-year period. That's far from half-a-cent. And the new taxing authority could easily raise taxes further yet, with taxpayers next-to-helpless at that point to do anything to stop it.
Finally, voters need to remember that, while the tax increase is being pushed to ease gridlock, there is no guarantee written into the proposed law that the monies raised will be used exclusively for that purpose. Funds could be diverted from the purpose currently advertised to voters road improvements and used for "other needs" that occur to politicians, once it's too late to do anything about it.
Northern Virginia voters should consider the motives of those pleading with them to agree to a new tax increase and ask themselves whether tax-and-spenders such as Gov. Mark Warner and the CBT can be taken at their word.

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