- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 3, 2002

Activists on both sides of the Northern Virginia sales tax referendum were out early yesterday in a last-ditch effort to persuade voters to see their side of the debate.
"This sales tax is not going to solve anything. And make no mistake, if they pass this one, they will be back for more," Marjorie Blakely, state chairman of the Virginia Young Republicans, told about 40 anti-referendum volunteers at Burke Lake Park in Fairfax County.
Mame Reilly, chairman of Citizens for Better Transportation, the leading pro-referendum group said her volunteers were equally motivated and out papering the region with fliers advocating passage.
"We are doing a huge literature drop all over the area," Mrs. Reilly said, estimating that her group had more than 100 people working yesterday to get the message out.
Both groups are conducting phone banks and going door-to-door in neighborhoods.
Voters in nine Northern Virginia jurisdictions will decide Tuesday whether to raise their sales tax by a half percent to fund transportation projects in the region. The measure is expected to raise $5 billion in the next 20 years for road construction and transit programs.
Referendum supporters, including Democratic Gov. Mark R. Warner, argue that the state's budget crisis does not allow for any additional funds for Northern Virginia to be allocated from Richmond.
The state is facing a $1.5 billion budget shortfall, and Mr. Warner announced nearly $858 million in budget cuts last month to deal with the crisis. Another round of cuts is expected next month.
"If we cap the future budget increases and dedicate all the surplus funds for transportation, [the state] would raise more money for transportation that this referendum will ever raise," said David Lampo, 51, a volunteer from Alexandria who works at the Cato Institute.
Delegate James K. O'Brien Jr., a Clifton Republican running in a special state senate election, agreed. "We can change the funding formula to the money we have already paid for transportation to get our fair share," he said to applauding anti-referendum volunteers.
Referendum opponents expressed confidence that their grass-roots efforts would help defeat the measure. Many civic and business groups support the referendum, while many conservative and environmental activists oppose it.
James Scarborough, 41, of Arlington said he came out to work to oppose the referendum because he is afraid of the "Trojan horse" approach.
"This is just the developers and the road builders' referendum, and all they want to do is build projects we don't need," he said.

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