- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 31, 2002

Gov. Mark R. Warner, campaigning yesterday on behalf of the sales-tax referendum in Northern Virginia, reminded voters that the proposed tax increase would expire once the authorized transportation projects were paid for but that won't happen for decades, he cautioned.
"[There will be a] phasing-out phase, but don't hold your breath. It will be at least 30 years," the Democratic governor said during a question-and-answer session with employees at Capitol One in Tysons Corner. He was joined by U.S. Sen. John W. Warner, a Republican, who also supports passage of the referendum.
Voters in nine Northern Virginia jurisdictions will be asked on Tuesday to raise their sales tax a half-cent per dollar from 4.5 percent to 5 percent to fund transportation projects in the region aimed at alleviating traffic gridlock. A poll released yesterday showed that support for passage was nearly evenly divided.
Only 49 percent of the 400 randomly selected registered voters surveyed by the independent Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. supported increasing the sales-tax rate while 43 percent opposed it. Eight percent were undecided.
The telephone poll was conducted Oct. 23-25, a period during which much of the region was caught up in the drama of the ongoing sniper attacks. The suspects, who are accused of killing at least 10 and injuring three during a three-week shooting spree, were apprehended in the early hours of Oct. 24.
Many grass-roots efforts on both sides of the campaign had to be curtailed as residents were fearful of when and where the sniper would attack next.
An earlier poll, released in September, showed the tax increase passing, 52 percent to 39 percent.
"I was pretty excited. The trend is what we had hoped it would be," said state Sen. Ken Cuccinelli, chairman of the Coalition Against the Tax Referendum. "The real question will be whether the half-million the other side spends on advertising between now and Election Day will swing the tide back to them. If the election were held today, we would win."
Mark Warner said yesterday he knew the race to pass the referendum would be close.
Asking people to raise their own taxes is never an easy or simple task, he said, adding that Virginia's budget shortfall means additional state funds for the region were not available.
The two Warners, who are not related, are spending a considerable amount of time together in the coming days to promote passage of the referendum. Yesterday they took part in two public forums and taped a television ad that will be airing soon, asking for support. This is quite a switch from six years ago, when the two men were campaigning against each other for Senate. In a race where both candidates spent a combined $17 million, John Warner defeated Mark Warner by 5 percentage points.
Yesterday, John Warner had nothing but kind words for his one-time adversary as he emphasized the need for passage of the referendum if motorists want to improve transit conditions.
"We are fortunate to have a governor who went through the school of hard knocks in the business world," said John Warner. "I back [Gov. Warner] 100 percent when he says he doesn't have [additional funds for transportation improvements in Northern Virginia.]"

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