A proposal to raise the sales tax in Northern Virginia by 1 cent to pay for Metro Subway operating costs, killed by a House of Delegates committee on Monday, was given artifical resuscitation yesterday so that it could be voted on by the entire House.
The controversial measure, which already has been approved by the Senate, was revived in the House Finance Committee and then approved by a 10-to-9 vote after Del. Wallace Stieffen (D-Hampton) switched his opposing vote. Stieffen said, however, he plans to vote against the bill on the floor, but felt it was an important enough measure that it should be voted on by the entire House.
Later in the day, the Senate Local Government Committee killed the Northern Virginia delegation's dallback taxing measure - a 4 percent gasoline sales tax that would have raised about $11 million a year compared to the estimated $34 million the sales tax increase would produce.
Yesterday's actions continue to underscore what has become a major feature of the recent General Assembly sessions - Northern Virginians trying to find some way to pay for the costs of Metrorail construction and other transportation problems.
as in previous years, the outcome will not be known until the final days of the session - or even the last hours, as was the case two years ago. As has been the pattern in the past, Northern Virginians can be glimpsed in animated conversations with their colleagues from other areas of the state,remainding one of a coal tax he wants, another of future transportation difficulties his district will face and want help in curing.
After the Senate committee voted to "pass by indefinitely" the gas tax measure, its sponsor, Del. Richard R. G. Hobson (D-Alexandria), said, "With friends like that, you don't need enemies." He said there was a possibility of reviving the bill later this week, but that no attempt would be made unless it appeared that more senators would support the bill.
Yesterday only Sen. Wiley F. Mitchell (R-Alexandria) voted for the measure: of the three other Northern Virginia senators on the committee two, Joseph V. Gartlan (D-Fairfax) and Charles F. Colgan (D-Prince william) were not present for the vote, and one, Charles L. Waddell (D-Loudoun) opposed the measure. There are 15 senators on the committee.
"There is a question whether the House will pass Sen. (Omer L.) Hirst's bill (on the sales tax), and a question whether or not the governor will sign it," Mitchell said in arguing for the gas tax measure. "This bill will give us the opportunity to do something about our transportation deficit . . . What you're doing to a local government (if you defeat the bill) is saying 'you don't have an option, you have to put the whole burden on the property owner."
Waddell, echoing the comments of gasoline retailers who opposed the bill, said that adding gasoline to the products covered by the state's 4 percent sales tax would be discriminatory. "It's unfair to single out one product like this," he said.
Others senators said they had voted for the gas tax two years ago, but were opposing it yesterday because it was punitive to one industry.
"I think this is a way of putting pressure on the House to pass the sales tax," Hobson said of the gas tax vote.
The sales tax proposal was amended before it was killed Monday - that was before its rebirth yesterday - to require a proportionate reduction in the property tax if the sales is enacted. Proponents of the sales tax increase have argued that it would redistribute the burden of paying for the Metrorail operating deficits by shifting the sole source of revenue from property taxes to the sales tax, which covers most goods, including food.
Support for the sales tax increase on the House floor is still uncertain. At least four Northern Virginia delegates are against it, and one, Del. Warren Barry (R-Fairfax), is said to be preparing a floor amendment on the tax before it could be enacted. While this is not expected to be successful, it could be a sign of a stiff fight on the overall measure when it is scheduled for debate for the first time on the House floor.
"The Fairfax County board has been down here saying the people want this tax," said Del. Vincent F. Caliahan (R-Fairfax)."Let's see if they really do." Callahan said he probably would vote against the tax but favors the referendum idea. He said he has been barraged with phone calls from people opposing the tax.
Two-thirds of the money from the sales tax increase would be spent on Metrorail operating costs; the remaining third would be returned to the locality for other transportation needs. Proponents have argued that this additional source of revenue earmarked for already obligated transportation costs would free other money in local budgets for schools and other needs.
As the bill is written now, representatives of jurisdictions with 90 percent of the population in Northern Virginia would have to approve the sales tax before it could take effect. The jurisdictions are Arlington and Fairfax counties Falls Church, Alexandria and Fairfax City.
In other action:
A House committee killed a proposal to require unmarried woman under 18 to get a court order before obtaining an abortion if they could not or would not get their parents' permission. The bill would have required a judge to decide if the woman were "mature enough" to have an abortion. "If she's not mature enough to have an abortion, she certainly isn't mature enough to have a baby," said Del. Thomas J! Michie (D-Charlottesville), who opposed the bill, which was sponsored by gartlan.
The Senate, by a 90-to-3 vote, passed a House-approved bill that would require the Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation to conduct a survey of the effectiveness of the state Litter Control Commiss120ion in 1979.