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2001 Summer Bulletin




The push for higher taxes

To end rush-hour gridlock, there was during this year's session of the Virginia General Assembly, a major push for a referendum to raise the sales tax from 4.5 to 5.5 cents on the dollar. Thanks in part to the lobbying efforts of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance, the bill for the referendum was ultimately defeated, but by only two votes.

According to the Board of Supervisors, the press, and the business community, championed by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, the only solution to gridlock is to raise taxes.

Insufficient taxes, however, are not causing gridlock. The real problem is that too little of current tax revenues is spent on transportation.

Transportation: a low priority

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors spends only three percent of its "general fund" revenues on transportation, and the state of Virginia spends only one percent of its "general fund" revenues on transportation. County and state general fund revenues are $2.3 billion and $12.4 billion. Fairfax County's transportation costs are for Metrorail ($12M), the county's Fairfax Connector bus system ($16M), principal ($26M) and interest ($9M) for bonds to build roads, and the county's Department of Transportation ($7M).

General vs. nongeneral funds

"General fund" revenues are government revenues that are not earmarked for a specific purpose. These include the major taxes: state income tax, real estate tax, personal property tax (also known as the "car tax"), four cents of the 4.5 cent sales tax, utility taxes (electricity, telephone, and natural gas), and BPOL (Business, Professional, and Occupational License) taxes. State general fund revenues also include profits from the Alcoholic Beverage Control board and the state lottery.

By contrast, "nongeneral fund" revenues are earmarked for a specific purpose. For example, motor vehicles fuel tax, the motor vehicles sales tax, and 1/2 cent of the 4.5 cent sales tax are earmarked for transportation.

Other examples of state "nongeneral funds" are tuition paid to public colleges, fees paid to state-run hospitals, and federal grants for medicaid.

Most taxes off-limits to transportation

What the public does not know is that both the county supervisors and the state government have policies that prevent general fund taxes (i.e., all major taxes) from being spent on transportation.

The county supervisors' policy is that transportation is the state's responsibility. Therefore the supervisors spend as little as possible on transportation. The county is required, however, to help subsidize the Virginia Railway Express and Metrorail. The county runs its own bus system to avoid subsidizing the Metro bus system, which the county felt was too expensive. The county can spend more for transportation, as it once did by helping finance the Fairfax Parkway, which is nearly complete.

The state government's policy is that transportation should be paid for from user fees, e.g., gasoline tax, motor vehicle sales tax, licensing fees, and tolls. These and other nongeneral fund revenues provide the Commonwealth Transportation Board with about $3 billion per year. The Northern Virginia 2020 Transportation Plan requires an additional $700 million per year. Needed projects for the rest of the state, such as widening I-81, may require a similar amount.

The 2020 Plan does recommend some projects that should not be funded, such as widening the beltway and I-66 while building rail. Wider interstates will draw commuters and developers away from rail lines. However, the plan probably underestimates costs of the legitimate projects.

Let transportation compete with schools

These county and state policies prevent transportation from competing against social spending (education, welfare, public safety), for general fund revenues. For example, since 1979, Virginia's public school real spending per student has doubled while transportation has remained the same. Social spending consumes over 70 percent of general fund revenues. The right way to increase transportation funding is to change these policies so transportation can compete against social spending for general fund revenues. The competition would also increase the scrutiny of social spending, which generally subsidizes problems rather than solving them.

Higher incomes drive up household taxes
Real estate tax hike cancels out "car tax rollback"

State income taxes soar

Since 1995, the state of Virginia has watched individual income taxes soar. By 2002, the state income tax paid by the "typical" Fairfax County household will have increased by over $2000, adjusted for inflation. As was explained in the lead article, almost none of the extra income taxes will go to transportation, since Richmond's policy is to spend income taxes primarily on social programs (education, welfare, courts, prisons).

Real estate hike cancels car tax cut

Moreover, for the last two years, the increase in the Fairfax County real estate tax has cancelled out the "car tax" reduction. For example, between 2000 and 2001, the typical household's car tax bill decreased $90 while the real estate tax bill increased $150. Between 2001 and 2002, the car tax bill is projected to decrease by $160 while the real estate bill will increase $288.

Lower car tax justifies higher real estate tax?

This suits the Fairfax Board of Supervisors just fine. Last February, when the county executive, Anthony H. Griffin, presented his 11 percent real estate tax increase to the supervisors, Supervisor Gerald E. Connolly (D-Providence District) defended the increase by suggesting that citizens could afford to pay higher real estate taxes since they were paying less for the car tax.

Car tax never cut

Actually, the car tax was never cut. Taxpayers are paying for it through the higher state income taxes, whose increase dwarfs the car tax cut. The car tax is being shifted from a painful annual payment to the income tax, which is paid from payroll withholding. Because of withholding, taxpayers do not realize that their taxes have increased.

By John Toivonen

The long battle over the Northern Virginia sales tax referendum was finally won when the conference version of HB2776, sponsored by Del. Jim Dillard (R-Burke), was defeated on Feb. 24, the final day of 2001 legislative session. The vote was 49-45, just two short of the 51 votes required for passage.

The Dillard bill's tortured history included repeated maneuvers in which a half-cent sales tax increase for education was alternately dropped and restored. The bill always asked for a half-cent increase for transportation. In the end Sen. Richard L. Saslaw's (D-Springfield) insistence on going for the full penny killed its chance of passing.

Much earlier in the session on, Jan. 31, we thought that the bill had been killed. On that evening Alliance President Arthur Purves and I testified before the House Finance Committee. The committee killed the bill by an 8-13 vote. But on Feb. 3 it was resurrected by House Finance with only a half-cent tax increase for transportation. It was sent to the House Appropriations Committee, which then added back the half-cent for education.

When HB2776 came to the House floor on Feb. 6 the full cent version was defeated by a vote of 44-53. A few hours later it was back before the House, this time with only a half cent for

transportation. It passed easily, 70-29. But just a half-cent for transportation was not enough for Sen. Saslaw. He struck his companion bill, SB1368, during a House Finance Subcommittee

meeting on Feb. 13 when he saw that the House would slice his full cent tax increase in half.

Saslaw champions full penny increase

By now HB2776 was before the Senate, where Sen. Saslaw had no problem restoring the half cent for education. The vote was taken on Feb. 20 and it passed 32-8. Sen. Kevin G. Miller (R-Harrisonburg) voted yes on the first tally, but on a reconsideration vote changed his vote to a no. But with the House accepting only a half-cent, the Senate and House were forced to develop a conference bill. The conference version returned to the full penny increase.

Possibly the most interesting and nerve-wracking moment of the entire 2001 session came during the final day deliberations on HB2776. Speaker of the House Vance Wilkins (R-Amherst) was asked to rule on whether or not HB2776 created a regional government. If it did, it would require a 2/3 majority to pass in the House. Wilkins ruled that it did not create a regional government, but warned that he would rule more strictly in the future, a good sign for taxpayers that want to check the power of government.

Del. Bob Marshall attacks

Throughout the history of HB2776 one delegate opened fire at every opportunity on the ill-advised piece of legislation. Del. Robert Marshall (R-Manassas) became an ally on the night of Jan. 25, at a Northern Virginia Delegation meeting. He was the lone dissenter in a crowd of tax raisers. He first voiced one of his principal objections on that night, that the bill would create a regional imposition that would impact localities that had voted no on the referendum. The next day I discussed the bill with him, and he informed me that he would do everything in his power to defeat it.

When the bill first hit the House floor on Feb. 6 Marshall unleashed eight amendments to the bill. Only one passed, but others raised important issues.

According to Marshall, the push for the tax increase came not from the people, but from the business interests who "threatened us (political leaders) for our jobs."

"It is phony, it is hypocritical to suggest people want it," Marshall said.

He attempted to amend the referendum to say that none of the projects listed in the bill have any obligation to go forward. This amendment failed.

He also tried to amend the bill to add criteria to assess whether the projects would improve traffic flow. He stated that even with these projects traffic would be so slow that "You could sit in your car and read Tolstoy." This amendment also failed.

Another of Marshall's amendments stated that no sales increase may be levied in a locality unless a majority of people in that locality approves it. This one failed.

The one amendment that passed stated: No locality can put a referendum on a ballot unless the governing body approves of it. This one passed 56-37.

Jay Katzen another ally

Another key ally was Del. Jay Katzen (R-Warrenton). The candidate for Lt. Governor consistently voted no on the bill, met regularly with me to discuss the bill, and offered useful advice on how to defeat this piece of legislation.

On the Democratic side of the fence Del. C. Richard Cranwell (D-Vinton) was the fiercest opponent of HB2776. He used his considerable oratorical skills to fight it in committee and on the House floor.

Bond referendum preserved

While HB2776 was a threat to taxpayers that consumed much of the Alliance's time and energy, we also fought SR366, a bill sponsored by Sen. Kevin G. Miller that would have removed the referendum requirement for counties taking on bond debt. On Feb. 19 I testified before the House Privileges and Elections Committee on this bill, as did our allies in The Virginia Taxpayers Association, Common Cause, and The Family Foundation. This resolution was defeated 5-18.


Key votes were identified and the delegates' and senators' votes compiled by Mr. Toivonen. In the tables, a "+" indicates a pro-FCTA vote. For votes taken in a committee, a "+" or "-" will occur only for those legislators who are members of the committee.

Most, but not all, of the votes pertain to the sales tax increase.

The rightmost column, headed with a "%", shows the percentage of pro-FCTA votes. A score of 100 percent is best, and indicates that every vote was a pro-FCTA vote.

There are 100 delegates, of which 53 are Republican, and 40 senators, of which 22 are Republican.

This bulletin lists principally the legislators from Northern Virginia.


In the House of Delegates, the average score for Republicans was 64 , while the average score for Democrats was 49.

In the Senate, the average score for Republicans was 30, while the average score for Democrats was only 3. All senators from Northern Virginia scored zero, except for Senator Mims, who scored 17 since he did vote to preserve the requirement for bond referenda.

Honor Roll

Northern Virginia delegates that scored 100 percent are:
Dick Black
Jay Katzen (candidate for Lt. Governor)
Bob Marshall

Three senators scored 100, includng Randy Forbes, who was just elected to the U. S. House of Representatives.


Vote 1: House of Delegates first vote on HB2776, for education and transportation. Defeated 44-53. A NO vote is a pro-FCTA vote.

Vote 2: House of Delegates second vote on HB2776, for transportation only. Passed 70-29. A NO vote is a pro-FCTA vote.

Vote 3: House of Delegates final vote on conference version of HB2776, for education and transportation. Defeated 49-45. A NO vote is a pro-FCTA vote.

Vote 4: House Finance Committee vote on HB2776. Defeated 8-13. A NO vote is a pro-FCTA vote.

Vote 5: House Finance Committee vote on HB2776 to report to appropriations. Passed 13-10. A YES vote is a pro-FCTA vote. Those who voted "No" did not want to send the bill to appropriations; they wanted it reported directly to the House floor.

Vote 6: House Appropriations Committee vote on HB2776. Passed 25-3. A NO vote is a pro-FCTa vote.

Vote 7: House Finance Committee vote on HB2725, for transportation. Defeated 11-11. A NO vote is a pro-FCTa vote.

Vote 8: House Finance Committee vote on HB2248, allows localities to impose an additional one cent sales tax for transportation. Passed by indefinitely 23-0. A YES vote is a pro-FCTA vote.

Vote 9: House Privileges and Elections Committee vote on HJ609, resolution to repeal car tax. Passed 19-3. A YES vote is a pro-FCTA vote.

Vote 10: House of Delegates vote on HJ609. Passed 88-8. A YES vote is a pro-FCTA vote.

Vote 11: House Counties, Cities, and Towns Committee vote on HB1794, gives counties the same taxation power as cities. Tabled 20-2. A YES vote is a pro-FCTA vote.

Vote 12: House Privileges and Elections Committee vote on SJ366, eliminate the referendum requirement for counties taking on bond debt. Failed 5-18. A NO vote is a pro-FCTA vote.

NP=Not Present NV=Present but not voting. ABS=Abstention

Delegates   Party 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 %
David  Albo  R  +  -  +             +     75
James Almand D - - - - -   - +   +     25
Kristen Amundson D - - NV             + +   50
Richard Black R + + +             +     100
Thomas Bolvin R - - -             +     25
Robert Brink D - - -             +     25
Vincent Callahan R - - -     -     + +   + 43
Richard Cranwell D + + + + +   + +   NV -   88
Karen Darner D - - -             +     25
Jeannemarie Devolites R - - -           + +   + 50
James Dillard R - - -     -     - +   + 29
Robert Hull D - - - - -   - +   + -   22
Jay Katzen R + + + + +   + +   +     100
Robert Marshall R + + +           + + + + 100
Joe May R + - NV     -       NV     33
Robert McClure R + - + + -   - +   +     63
Michelle McQuigg R + - +             + +   80
Jay O'Brien R + - -           + +   + 67
Harry Parrish R - - - - -   - +   +     25
Kenneth Plum D - - -     -       +     20
John Rollison R - - +     -     + +   + 57
John Rust R - - - - -   - +   +     25
James Scott D - - -             +     25
Marian Van Landingham D - - -     -     NV -   - 0
Vivian Watts D - - -             +     25
Vance Wilkins R + - +             +     75


Vote 1: Senate Finance Committee vote on SB1368, tax increase for transportation and education. Passed 15-0. A NO vote is a pro-FCTA vote.

Vote 2: Senate Floor vote on SB1368. Passed 35-4. Later struck in House Finance at the patron's request. A NO vote is a pro-FCTA vote.

Vote 3: Senate Finance Committee vote on HB2776, tax increase for transportation and education. Passed 14-0. A NO vote is a pro-FCTA vote.

Vote 4: Senate Floor vote on HB2776. Passed 33-7. A NO vote is a pro-FCTA vote.

Vote 5: Senate Floor vote, after agreeing to reconsideration, on HB2776. Passed 32-8. A NO vote is a pro-FCTA vote.

Vote 6: Senate Floor vote on Conference Version of HB2776. Passed 33-6. A NO vote is a pro-FCTA vote.

Vote 7: Senate Privileges and Elections vote on HJ609, resolution to repeal the car tax. Passed by indefinitely 8-5. A NO vote is a pro-FCTA vote.

Vote 8: Senate Privileges and Elections Committee vote on SJ366, resolution to remove the referendum requirement for counties taking on bond debt. Passed 11-3-1. A NO vote is a pro-FCTA vote.

Vote 9: SJ366 Senate Floor vote. Passed 30-10. A NO vote is a pro-FCTA vote.

Vote 10: SJ366 Senate Floor vote, after reconsideration. Passed 29-10. A NO vote is a pro-FCTA vote.

NP=Not Present NV=Present but not voting. ABS=Abstention

Senators   Party 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 %
Warren Barry R - - - - - -     - -  0
Leslie Byrne D   -   - - - - - - -  0
John Chichester R - - - - - -     + NV  14
Randy Forbes R   +   + + + + + + +  100
Janet Howell D - - - - - - - - - -  0
Stephen Martin R   +   + + + + + + +  100
William Mims R   -   - - -     - +  17
Stephen Newman R   +   + + +     + +  100
Russell Potts R   -   - - - - - - -  0
Linda Puller D   -   - - NV     - -  0
Richard Saslaw D - - - - - -     - -  0
Patricia Ticer D   -   - - -     - -  0
Mary Whipple D   -   - - -     - -  0

For scores of all legislators statewide, please email scorecard@fcta.org.

A project to put FCTA on Channel 10, the Fairfax County Public Access TV channel, is being explored by your Board. Several volunteers are needed to enable us to do this. Young or old, if you have some time to offer, usually on weekdays, you can help FCTA get its message about responsible taxation out to the public. No experience necessary - you learn as you do. You get no pay, nor do you have to pay anything. Work at home or at Merrifield TV studios. Work to be done involves proposal writing, script writing or editing, camera operation, set design, graphics preparation, video editing, lighting, sound, scheduling or administrative tasks.

If you are willing to give a few hours a week for 6 - 8 weeks, please send an e-mall message to fcta@fcta.org or phone 703 642-5567, leave your name, and we will call you back.

2020 Transportation Plan:
You ain't seen nothin' yet!
Under a Transportation Planning Board Transportation Plan, local governments will spend $30 billion of tax money in Northern Virginia for transportation by 2020 (see table). By comparison, Fairfax County's current annual operating budget is $2 billion. If the expansion is funded with bonds, the cost of interest will increase the costs shown in the table by 50 percent. No provision is made for increased costs due to inflation. Nor is project cost creep (like the $2.5 billion Metro cost rising to over $9 billion) considered in the estimates.
  System Expansion Operation/
Current Plan (Northern Virginia Portion of Regional CLRP 1

Total Cost (1997-2020)

Yearly Cost 2

Bike Pedestrian

$4.0 Billion

$ Million
$ 130
$11.8 Billion

$ Million 3
$15.8 Billion
Northern Virginia 2020 Plan Improvements Added to Current Plan
Total Cost (2000-2020)

Yearly Cost
Bike Pedestrian
Technology 4
$ 13.1 Billion

$ Million
$ 1.2 Billion 5

$ Million
$ 14.3 Billion
Total yearly cost $643 $62  
Grand Total 2020 Plan Costs $17.1 Billion $ 13.0 Billion $ 30.1 Billion


1 Source: MWCOG —Financially Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan for the National Capital Region 1997 Update. Includes expenditures 1997 to 1999.The ongoing year 2000 update will provide cost forecasts based on recent expenditures.

2 Yearly cost is the total cost in present dollars divided by the number of years in each plan. Inflation and debt financing are not included.

3 Includes operation, maintenance, and preservation of the existing and Current Plan transportation system (roadway and transit elements

4 Assumes a 5-year expansion and operation/maintenance in total cost

5 Includes 10 years of operation and maintenance costs for the projects completed by year 2010.

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