The Virginia Senate voted overwhelmingly today for a package of bills intended to end years of controversy over city-county annexation and revenue sharing disputes.
Senate approval of the three House-passed bills all but assures an end to annexation of county land by cities in most of the state and a $150 million increase in state aid to local governments during the next two-year budget period, 1980-82.
The bills were passed over the objections of a few members who warned that there is no guarantee that the state can afford the promised aid. Richmond's two senators also complained that the final compromise sacrificed the needs of the central cities.
Del. Thomas J. Michie Jr. (D-Charlottesville), chief patron of the annexation and local aid legislation, called the package a "half loaf" but the best solution possible. "There is no final answer to the annexation problem, for local governments in the judgment of the appropriations committee."
One bill in the package grants immunity to annexation to counties with relatively dense populations, including all counties in the Northern Virginia and Richmond urban areas.
Another parcels out increased state aid to localities, chiefly to help pay law enforcement costs.
A third bill reallocates road aid in a way that benefits counties with unpaved roads and cities with multilane streets. Earlier fears that Fairfax County would lose up to $2 million a year in aid under this bill were erased by new calculations by highway officials and bill amendment.
The practical impact of the legislation in Northern Virginia is minimized by the fact that Fairfax County has successfully used its urban services as a defense in court against annexation by Alexandria.Neither of the two large towns in Fairfax, Vienna and Herndon, have been considered likely to exercise their rights under current law to become cities and pursue annexation of adjacent county areas.
Under the bills approved today, those towns could become cities, but would not be able to annex county land thereafter.
The local government aid bill would provide approximately the following additional revenues to Northern Virginia governments during 1980-82:
Fairfax County, $12.2 million; Arlington County, $7 million; Alexandria, $6.7 million; Prince William County, $3.5 million; Loudoun County, $1.2 million; Falls Church, $600,000; Fairfax City, $925,000; Manassas, $320,000; Manassas Park, $320,000.
Gov. John N. Dalton is considered certain to sign the annexation and aid bills as soon as minor differences between the Senate and House versions are worked out.
In a meeting with Northern Virginia legislators today, Dalton used the aid the bills promise as an argument against authorization of a Northern Virginia sales tax to help finance Metro operating costs.
The Metro tax bill has passed the Senate, but Dalton is expected to veto it even if it gets by the House of Delegates, whose leaders oppose it. Dalton tried to convince the Northern Virginia legislators today that Metro spending does not warrant a special tax.
Del. Mary Marshall (D-Arlington) said members of the delegation challenged Dalton's Metro spending figures "because they only showed the money paid out, not the money we owe."
Del. Warren Stambaugh (D-Arlington) said he pressed the governor about his exact intentions toward the bill and received the standard answer: Dalton has not made up his mind about whether to veto the bill but is philosophically opposed to the concept of regional sales taxes.
"I think he is being perfectly frank," Stambaugh said. "He's trying to convince us that it isn't needed, and we're trying to convince him that it is. With the exception of the property tax, we're at the maximum level of every single tax we can levy."
Del. Raymond Vickery (D-Fairfax) said the Republican governor "is concerned with his political image" in Northern Virginia. And, Vickery added, Dalton's stated opposition to local sales tax measures "has put the Republican delegation up there in a very awkward position."
For Del. Richard R. G. Hobson (D-Alexandria), a Dalton veto of the sales tax for Metro would mean "he can't claim to be a friend of Northern Virginia anymore. And if he or his successor run for political office, the voters will tag it."