- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Supporters and opponents of a referendum that would increase the sales tax in Northern Virginia to fund transportation projects hit the streets yesterday to get their message out.
Before dawn, about 75 activists pro and con greeted commuters at the Horner Road commuter lot in Prince William County as they returned to work after the Labor Day holiday. Among the glad-handing activists was Gov. Mark R. Warner, a Democrat and referendum supporter.
"The responses I have gotten so far are 'Yes, I'll consider it,' or 'I think we need to do something.' I have not had anyone tell me they were opposed to it, but that could just be them being courteous," Mr. Warner told reporters during a break.
The governor arrived at Virginia's largest commuter lot, just off of the Prince William County Parkway, shortly before 6:30 a.m. and stayed until almost 9 a.m. His appearance, with state police protection, and the throng of activists carrying signs and wearing stickers, proved too much for some commuters eager to get back to work.
"This is messing up the slug line. I need to get to work by 8 a.m., and this is ridiculous," said Paul Frantz, who was in a slug line to catch a ride to Arlington.
Mr. Frantz said he is undecided about how he would vote in November.
Others said the attention given the governor and his crusade was important because now the fall election will begin to creep into their minds.
"It's good that they are out here giving us some information and what better place for them to give it to us," said Crystal Kurn of Dumfries.
Miss Kurn said she also is undecided.
Voters in nine Northern Virginia jurisdictions will go to the polls Nov. 5 to decided whether to raise their sales tax from 4 cents to 5 cents to fund road and transit projects.
Mr. Warner campaigned heavily on the issue last fall and made its passage the cornerstone of his inaugural legislative session this past spring in Richmond.
Referendum opponents yesterday carried signs reading "Enough is Enough" and "Say No to the Tax Hike." They said leaders like Mr. Warner were not doing the job they were elected to do.
"This tax hike rewards the government for neglecting transportation needs of the region during the dot-com bubble," said Arthur Purves, president of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance, which opposes the referendum.
Mr. Warner said things should have been done better in the past, but said focusing on the past is not going to solve the gridlock facing Virginia motorists.
Delegate John A. Rollison III, Fairfax County Republican and a leading supporter of the referendum in the General Assembly, told commuters yesterday they must be willing to pay more to get better service.
"We are 47th out of 50 [states] in tax burden. We can drop it down one more notch and be at the level of Arkansas and get the same schools and roads they do," Mr. Rollison said to Mr. Purves and another unidentified anti-tax activist. "You want Arkansas' [services]? Move to Arkansas. But there is no such thing as a free lunch."
Some taxpayers complained that they already pay too much in taxes, pointing to the state car-tax bills many received last week. They questioned how much good the extra revenue would do and whether the state would actually let the region keep it.
Activism against the referendum has prompted the formation of an eclectic coalition of groups with varying agendas. The Republican-leaning Club for Growth and the Fairfax Taxpayers group are working with the Coalition for Smarter Growth, an environmental group that is often associated with Democrats.
Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, said regional governments including Maryland and the District should work with Virginia to find better ways of dealing with urban sprawl, instead of building new roads or widening existing ones.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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