Howell Faulted for Saying Fairfax Can Fund Own Subsidies

By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors denounced the speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates yesterday for suggesting that the county was wealthy enough to subsidize day care for 1,900 low-income children without the state's help.

Earlier this year, House Republicans stripped about $6 million from the state budget that Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) had proposed to partially make up for cuts in Fairfax's federal child-care money for the working poor. The county, which is losing about $13 million in child-care funds, has been working with Kaine to find some stop-gap funding.

Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) said in an interview with the Examiner newspaper last week that "as one of the two or three richest counties in the country," Fairfax should make up the shortfall on its own.

"And the fact that they're asking the citizens of the commonwealth . . . to subsidize day care does seem a little incongruous to us," Howell said.

Although Fairfax has the second-highest median household income in the country -- $94,610, trailing only Loudoun County -- that income isn't taxed locally.

At yesterday's board meeting, Gerald E. Connolly (D) said Howell's statement typifies the attitude of state lawmakers who shortchange Northern Virginia while expecting it to underwrite services for less-prosperous regions of the state.

"What he has proposed is a Darwinian argument," Connolly said. "Pay for your own programs while my citizens and taxpayers are expected to fund his."

Connolly added that if Howell believes localities should pay their own way, "we ought to start with VRE service in his home county of Stafford," subsidized by revenue from Fairfax, Connolly said.

He also said he plans to write to Howell inviting him to meet with the board to discuss what Connolly describes as inequities in funding.

"I think he should come to Fairfax County and explain himself," he said.

Howell did not return phone messages at his home and office yesterday. His chief of staff, G. Paul Nardo, said it was unlikely that the speaker would take Connolly up on his invitation. The day-care program, while laudable, is one of numerous priorities across the state, Nardo said.

"We're not going to play 'Gotcha' with Chairman Connolly," Nardo said. "You can't make a serious argument that the General Assembly is not providing Fairfax County with the money it needs. The facts don't back it up."

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