Arlington and Alexandria officials appeals yesterday to Northern Virginia legislators to press for a regional Metro sales tax despite Virginia Gov. John N. Daltons announced opposition to the measure.
Members of both the Arlington County Board and the Alexandria City Council agreed in separate meetings that their expected Metro costs are so huge that they must obtain a new revenue source for them.
Dalton dismayed the legislators Wednesday by announcing that he is firmly opposed of any special sales or gasoline taxes such as the ones that have been frequently proposed for the Washington suburbs. An aide to the governor said later that Dalton almost certainly would veto such a measure, if approved by the general Assembly.
While th Arlington action came at an emergency meeting that lacked anny anti-Dalton rhetoric, two members of the Alexandria council complained about the governor's stance before the council unanimously passed its Metro resolution.
Alexandria council member Beverly Beidler, who introduced the meansure, said she was "distressed" by Dalton's position and councilmember Donald C. Casey said it "leaves us hanging."
Northern Virginnia legislators, who had planned to make enactment of the Metro tax a major goal during the current legislative session, will meet Monday in Richmond to decide whether to pursue such legislation. "It's important to present a reasonably united front" on the proposal, State Sen. Edward M. Holland (D-Arlington) told the Arlington County Board yesterday.
Holland was referring to a bitter despute over allocation of the proposed tax revenue that erupted Friday between Arlington and Fairfax delegates to the Northern Virginia Transporation Commission (NVTC). That dispute threatened to dissolve regional support for the proposed tax before yesterday's meetings, said Arlington Board chairman Dorothy T. Grotos.
Newly-installed NVTC chairman John W. Purdy, a member of the Arlington Board, had stalked out of the Friday meeting, incensed by what he called "very personal remarks" by Fairfax County Supervisor Joseph Alexander. Purdy refused to say what the remarks were, and Alexander declined to comment yesterday.
Under a bill introduced last year, Arlington's $8.7 million Metro operating deficit -- currently financed out of property tax revenues -- would be paid by the new one percent sales tax. Arlington would also have received more than $2 million in revenue to be used toward other transportation projects, under the bill.
As a result of a misunderstanding by NVTC officials, a new allocation agreement was drawn up last week and sent to Richmond to be placed in this year's bill. Under tha tproposal, Arlington's operating Metro deficit would be paid by the tax b ut the county would not receive additional funds because the projected transit deficit outstrips projected sales tax revenue. That extra money would go to Fairfax County, a change that angered Purdy.
"Arlingtonians spend a ot of money at Tysons Corner, Landmark and Seven Corners," regional shopping centers in Fairfax, Purdy told the Arlington Board yesterday. "The whole idea of a regional approach is threatened by this revision." Do we want to support a new tax (from) which we don't get any addiktional revenue?"
Grotos said she wanted the bill anyway and other board members agreed. "Being realistic, Arlington is still getting a great deal out of this bill," she said. "If John is going to keep jumping ship and walking out of meetings, we're not going to get anything accomplished. This bill would still remove the operating deficit from the propety tax."
Arlington officials say that next year 23 percent of all propety tax revenue is earmarked to finance Metro. If the county's operating deficit were paid by a special tax, local officials say they could cut the tax rate by 22 cents.