2002 Transportation Referendum in Northern Virginia

A major controversy in the 2002 General Assembly was over a tax increase to finance Northern Virginia transportation projects. Supporters of education in the State Senate insisted on linking education with transportation.

In the regular session, the General Assembly did pass SB 576: Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. Since population was to be the primary basis for making decisions in the new Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, the "neighbors" were concerned that Fairfax County would have excessive influence in that organization.

In later negotiations, all members of the authority agreed that no project would be approved in a jurisdiction unless that county or city approved. That mitigated the fear that Fairfax could force another section in Northern Virginia to build a road. Imagine you had been elected to the Loudoun Board of Supervisors, and local opposition was strong to the "Route 234 Bypass/Route 659 Relocated" (also known as the "Western Bypass" or "Tri-County Connector") - or you represented southern Fairfax County, and Prince William kept proposing to extend Ridgefield Road north and build a bridge across the Occoquan Reservoir. You would want veto power over projects in your jurisdiction; you would not want the elected officiaks in other jurisdictions to have the ability to force construction of a road in your territory. After all, Prince William supervisors would be unaffected by voter discontent in Loudoun...

Vance Wilkins, the Speaker who controlled the House of Delegates, ended the debate in the regular 2002 session by adjourning the house without considering the last compromise proposal from the Senate, SB 692: Local income tax in Northern Virginia.

Governor Warner created a new opportunity to finance mass transit and road projects during the regularly-scheduled "veto session." (The veto session is a short reconvening of the General Assembly allowing the legislators a chance to overide the Governor's vetoes, or to respond to his proposed amendments to bills passed earlier in the year.) The General Assembly approved his modification to SB668 (which authorized the Hampton Roads referendum) and approved a referendum asking Northern Virginia voters to raise $5 billion over the next 20 years. The increased funds were dedicated to finance Northern Virginia transportation projects, using a 0.5% increase in the sales tax - rather than imposing a local income tax to support both schools and transportation.

As described by the State Board of Elections:

A favorable vote on the question in Northern Virginia (the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William, and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park) would authorize the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to issue debt in a principal amount not exceeding $2,800,000,000 for specified transportation projects, and to pay the interest and principal of such debt with the additional revenues generated by an increase of one-half of one percent in the sales and use tax in that region.
The ballots in these localities will contain the following question:
"QUESTION: Shall an additional sales and use tax of one-half of one percent be imposed in Arlington County, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Prince William County, the City of Alexandria, the City of Fairfax, the City of Falls Church, the City of Manassas, and the City of Manassas Park, with the revenues to be used solely for regional transportation projects and programs as specified in Chapter 853 of the Acts of Assembly of 2002?"
However, the proposed 2002 bonds were defeated by the voters.


Highways in Virginia
From Feet to Space: Transportation in Virginia
Virginia Places