Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes upped the ante to $94 million.
Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) angrily stalked out after a heated exchange with Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.).
And Gov. Charles S. Robb teased that Virginia was interested in buying the Port of Baltimore.
That was the scene at yesterday's Senate Commerce Committee hearings on legislation to transfer control of Dulles and National airports from the federal government to a regional authority at a price of $47 million.
The Reagan administration, and Virginia and District officials are vigorously pushing the bill, while Maryland officials are opposed to the measure, fearing it would hurt Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
Yesterday, Maryland found some allies among Democrats on the committee. Some senators said the plan favored Virginia too much, while one -- Hollings -- said to Warner's dismay that he was simply opposed to relinquishing federal control over airports serving the nation's capital.
Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) said he was "very encouraged" by the critical comments.
Sen. Paul S. Trible (R-Va.), a committee member, said it was "too early to predict how the members will vote." But he added that he had not counted on the support of the critical senators. A second day of hearings will be held July 11.
Hughes tried to raise the bidding for National and Dulles, announcing that Maryland would be willing to pay $94 million for them if they are placed up for sale. Maryland officials argue that the $47 million price is too low and would amount to a federal subsidy for two major competitors of BWI.
Hughes conceded that Maryland's offer to buy Dulles and National was "probably impractical." But he added that if the federal government accepted it, "We'd have the check to them today."
Trible responded: "Just don't write it on a Maryland savings and loan."
Some of the sharpest criticism of the day came from Hollings, the ranking committee Democrat, who had heated exchanges with both Warner and Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole.
Hollings, who said he frequently uses National Airport, chastised the Virginia congressional delegation for failing to try to get federal money for improvements to airports. "We can get the money. We haven't asked," he said.
Hollings has introduced a bill to spend $250 million on improvements at the two airports. He said his bill would not affect the federal deficit because money would come from a $7 billion airport trust fund. But, Hollings said, the transfer plan would finance airport improvements through tax-exempt bonds, a step that the Congressional Budget Office estimated would cost the federal government $108 million in lost taxes in fiscal 1986.
During the hearings, Hollings and Warner got into a sharp exchange over the issue of tax-exempt bonds. Hollings asked Warner how the Reagan administration could support the airport legislation, on the one hand, and also urge Congress to eliminate tax-exempt bonds. Under the administration's tax revision proposals, localities could no long issue many bonds that are now free from federal taxes.
Warner said several times that he did not want to get into the subject of tax reform. Finally he turned to Hollings and said: "Senator, I'd like to excuse myself." He rose, saying he had a meeting to head, and left.
"He doesn't want to answer the question. Just let the record show that," said Hollings.
Robb said Virginia could support Hollings' measure, but he and the Virginia congressional delegation was skeptical that Congress would agree to spend that much money at the two airports. Dole said the administration would oppose the spending request because most of the $7 billion is already intended for work at other airports.
Sen. J. James Exon (D-Neb.) said he was concerned that the composition of the authority was unfairly tilted in favor of Virginia. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Sen. Wendell H. Ford (D-Ky.) said they were interested in Sarbanes' proposal to put National under a regional commission, and sell Dulles to Virginia