- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Opponents to the Northern Virginia transportation referendum brought in a big gun last night to deliver their message that raising taxes is not the answer to solving regional gridlock.
"This referendum is not going to end congestion," said Jack Kemp, former Republican vice-presidential nominee. "It is a shame that this comes under the euphemism of ending gridlock. I doubt if Northern Virginia will even get its money."
Mr. Kemp made his comments before roughly 100 supporters at a reception in McLean sponsored by the Virginia Club for Growth, an anti-tax organization.
Voters in nine Northern Virginia jurisdictions are going to the polls next week to decide whether to raise the sales tax by a half-cent to fund transportation initiatives in the region to alleviating gridlock. If passed, the referendum would raise $5 billion over the next 20 years, with the money going toward specified road, transit and rail projects.
Mr. Kemp served for 18 years in Congress as a representative from Buffalo, N.Y. He ran unsuccessfully for vice president during then-Sen. Bob Dole's failed attempt at the presidency in 1996. He now serves as the co-director of Empower America, a conservative think tank in the District.
"So many people are willing to give into the easy idea that just raising the sales tax is going to end congestion," said Mr. Kemp, a resident of Bethesda. "That's false advertising."
Mr. Kemp also said that he has traveled the country this year on behalf of more than 40 anti-tax candidates, and that he was speaking last night because he believed in the cause.
Proponents of the referendum, including Gov. Mark R. Warner, have said they need the money because doing something to fix the situation is better than doing nothing. They have also said a tax increase is needed because of the state's dire budget crisis.
Mr. Warner, a Democrat, announced the first round of budget cuts earlier this month that total more than $850 million. The cuts were intended to reduce the Commonwealth's $1.5 billion shortfall.
"Those cuts just prove there is no room in the existing budget to fund these transportation projects," said state Del. John Rollison, a Prince William Republican and leading advocate of the referendum.
However, opponents have said Northern Virginia is getting an unfair share of the money it sends to Richmond. They contend that the region receives only 42 cents for every dollar sent to Richmond.
"This is an easy decision to raise taxes so they don't have to make the tough budget decisions in Richmond," said Chris Freund, a policy analyst with the Family Foundation, which is opposed to referendum.
"The governor has been saying there is nothing else he can do," said state Sen. Ken Cuccinelli, Fairfax Republican, a leading opponent to the tax increase. "That's a falsehood. He knows it. They are trying to scare people to vote yes."
Peter Ferrara, president of the Virginia Club for Growth, agreed.
"The solution for the traffic problem is to slow big government spending and use the savings for essential transportation priorities," he said.
Although only 100 of an anticipated 300 people attended last night's reception, Mr. Ferrara said that about $10,000 was raised. The money will be used for last-minute advertising in the next seven days to encourage people to vote against the sales tax.

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