Rep. Stan Parris (R-Va.) said yesterday that he plans to introduce a bill on Tuesday to bar any state from buying federal property in another state, a move designed to block attempts by Maryland to buy National and Dulles International airports from the federal government.
"It's just as ludicrous for Virginia to own an oceanside theme park in Maryland as it is for Maryland to own airports in Virginia," said Parris.
The measure is the latest in a series of maneuvers in the battle between Maryland and Virginia over the airports.
Virginia officials are asking Congress to transfer the two airports, located in Northern Virginia, to a regional authority that would pay the federal government $47 million over 35 years.
Maryland officials have complained that the $47 million price tag is too low, calling it a subsidy that would give the Virginia airports an unfair advantage over the Baltimore-Washington International airport. Maryland transportation officials said they are thinking of making a higher bid for the airports -- a move Parris called "remote" and "ridiculous."
"We're going to nip that in the bud right now," said Parris. "When somebody says they're going to attack you, you must respond."
Parris' proposal was criticized by one key Virginia official, who asked that his name not be used. An aide said the official was concerned that Parris' action would "lend credibility to this Maryland proposal. It will never happen, and yet by introducing a bill to stop it, it gives the Maryland proposal credibility and plays into Maryland's hands."
Some transportation officials say privately that Maryland does not really intend to buy the airports, but hopes to kill the airport transfer proposal by convincing the deficit-conscious Congress that the price is too low.
Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) has criticized the price, noting that the Grace Commission, President Reagan's waste advisory panel, appraised the airports at $342 million. Officials with the federal Department of Transportation say an accurate cost estimate is difficult because so few major airports are sold.
Hearings are scheduled this month before the Senate Commerce Committee, where Hollings is the ranking minority member. Hollings has said the federal government should maintain control over the airports and has introduced legislation to spend $250 million in federal funds to update airport facilities.
The proposed regional authority would include representatives named by Virginia, the District, Maryland and the president. Maryland officials have protested that Maryland is slated to hold only two seats on the 11-member commission.