John N. Dalton, the Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, yesterday called Metro's bus operating deficits a "taxpayer and consumer ripoff" and called for an end of binding arbitration of Metro labor disputes as one way to reduce costs.
Dalton issued his criticism of Metro deficits at a news conference in the Fairfax County office building as he and his two running mates on the GOP ticket neared the end of 10-day campaign tour of the state.
Dalton, now the state's lieutenant governor, was nominated for governor at the Republican convention in Roanoke on June 4. His running mates are Sen. A. Joe Canada of Virginia Beach, for lieutenant governor, and Sen. J. Marshall Coleman of Staunton, for attorney general.
After the Fairfax appearance, the three Republicans went to Metro headquarters in Washington for a briefing on the system's construction program and operating record and then took a brief Metrorail ride. Dalton used the system's new automated fare card and called the subway "impressive."
However, at the press conference, he said of the bus deficits: "The cost keeps going up, ridership is falling off and the tax subsidy is going out of sight. We've got to get a handle on the operating costs problem. One way to hold the line is to repeal the mandatory arbitration provision of the Metro compact."
Metro workers last year obtained a wage settlement higher than the level approved by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Metro's governing agency, as a result of binding arbitration, which is provided for in the contract between Metro and the transit union.
Del. Wyatt B. Durrette Jr. (R-Fairfax) this year introduced an amendment to the Metro compact between Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia that would have repealed the binding arbitration clause. The bill passed the House of Delegates by an overwhelming margin, but was defeated in a Senate committee after strong labor union objections.
Democratic senators who helped kill it included Adelard L. Brault, the Senate Majority Leader. He argued that it would be futile for Virginia to propose a change in the Metro compact without advance agreement from Maryland and the Congress, which approves compacts with states for the District of Columbia.
Dalton said yesterday, "Virginia should show leadership in the effort to hold the lid on costs and as governor I would do just that." As an example of such leadership," he cited Gov. Mills E. Godwin's success in overturning a federal government ruling that Virginia must pay higher construction wages for work on portions of Interstate Rte. 66 that coincide with the [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]
Dalton said he would not rule out his support of direct state aid to help pay bus and subway operating deficits. He said he doubts the General Assembly will approve operating subsidies.
He said he opposes regional taxes such as the 4 per cent gasoline tax that the General Assembly authorized for Northern Virginia in 1976. The tax was intended to raise $22 million over two years to pay the estimated bus operating deficits for Northern Virginia. It never was imposed because the Fairfax City Council refused to ratify it.
Dalton said he opposes special regional taxes because he believes the state should have a uniform city and country tax structure.
Despite his criticism of Metro operating deficits, Dalton said he supports "increased aid" by the state to help local governments pay Metro construction costs. Both Canada and Coleman voted for Metro construction aid in the current Virginia budget.