Top officials from Northern Virginia are making last-minute pleas to Gov. L. Douglas Wilder not to try to solve the state's budget crisis by cutting money the commonwealth sends to the region's local governments.
A letter sent Monday to Wilder from seven area mayors and board chairmen said that "reductions in state funding for schools, the mentally disadvantaged and social services . . . will result in local program cuts which we will not be able to absorb or restore."
Citing a recent comment by state Finance Secretary Paul W. Timmreck that Northern Virginia has been the locomotive pulling the rest of the state, the letter added, "We would have been most appreciative if he had gone on to say -- 'and as we all know the last thing we want to do when a locomotive is slowing down is to cut back on its fuel.' "
The letter is one in a series of last-ditch attempts by Northern Virginia politicians, who are facing budget and tax problems of their own, to persuade Wilder not to gore the region's ox when crafting a solution to the state's projected $1.4 billion, two-year budget shortfall. Wilder is scheduled to unveil his proposed remedies for Virginia's budget woes in a statewide television address tomorrow night.
The state money goes to "real people with real needs, and we're saying, 'Make sure the very vulnerable people are not placed at further risk because funds they desperately need are snatched away,' " said Arlington Board Chairman Albert C. Eisenberg, one of the signatories.
Fairfax Board Chairman Audrey Moore said the letter was a plea to Wilder "to remember these are cuts we are not in a position to restore . . . because we are in the same financial situation."
Others who signed the letter were Loudoun Board Chairman Betty W. Tatum, Prince William Board Chairman Robert L. Cole, Fairfax City Mayor John Mason, Manassas Park Mayor Melanie Jackson and Manassas Mayor John Weber.
Eisenberg said one of the prime concerns of local officials is the possibility that the state may cut funds for the current fiscal year that local governments have already budgeted for programs and services. For instance, Northern Virginia localities could lose $10 million in fees collected at courthouses when land titles are filed. The fees, which local officials expected to begin receiving Jan. 1, are to be used for transportation and education.
"Our ability to plan for our financial future is hampered and disrupted by sudden shifts in money we have counted on from the state," Eisenberg said. "Even Arlington, with its strong economy, cannot be subjected to whipsaw budget policies."
Wilder spokeswoman Laura Dillard said the governor is "aware of and sensitive to the concerns of localities" and declined further comment pending his speech, which will air locally at 7 p.m. on WNVC (Channel 56) and WNVT (Channel 53).
In addition to the group letter, Alexandria Mayor James P. Moran Jr. sent a letter to Wilder, and Cole also sent a letter to his county's legislative delegation protesting expected cuts in state aid.
Noting that the region lost an estimated $36 million in state funding for the year that began July 1, Moran said in an interview yesterday, "It's so unfair and frustrating to be absorbing and making up for these state and federal cuts, and to have our taxpayers turn around and say, 'Ronald Reagan can cut our taxes, why can't you . . . . "