Gov. Mills E. Godwin sent to the General Assembly today a $125 million bond issue proposal heavily dominated by college and prison projects, but containing too little Northern Virginia construction to make some of the region's legislators happy.
If approved by the legislature and by voters at a referendum in November, the issue would become only the second general obligation bond issue Virignia has had in modern times. In 1968, breaking with the state's pay-as-you-go tradition, voters approved an $81 million college and mental hospital construction package by a 2-to-1 margin.
House Majority Leader James M. Thomson (D-Alexandria) was over-heard complaining shortly after Godwin announced details of the current proposal that Northern Virginia got short-changed. The package contains $13.4 million for construction of new classroom buildings at both George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College in Fairfax County.
Despite the objections of the Northern Virginians to some of the items in the bond proposal, the over-all package is generally expected to win quick approval in the Assembly, which is rushing to end its current session this week.
Separately a House of Delegates Finance Committee late today approved by a 10-to-9 margin a drastically amended version of the controversial Northern Virginia gas tax bill that would allow localities there to extend the state's 4 per cent sales tax to gasoline.A House Courts of Justice Committee approved by the same margin a bill that would authorize the death penalty for anyone convicted of first degree murder. Both measures are expected to face considerable opposition when they come to the House floor later this week.
Before approving the gas tax measure, the House committee added so many conditions to the Senate-passed version of the bill that Senate Majority Leader Adelard L. Brault (D-Fairfax) said he had "serious doubts" that the tax would ever be approved. The measure requires unanimous approval by Alexandria, Fairfax City, Falls Church, and Farifax and Arlington countries. An identical provision allowed Fairfax City last year to kill a similiar measure.
Both Thomson and Brault separately expressed unhappiness with the bond issue proposal, which was developed by Godwin and a joint Senate-House committee. But Thomson said efforts to undo the proposal would be difficult and added, "I'll do like all good boys do and support the bill."
With introduction of the governor's bond issue proposal, several other bond measures currently pending in the Senate Finance Committee are expected to die and the Assembly to concentrate instead on the Godwin proposals. The Godwin bond package actually will consist of five separate proposals, which will be submitted to the voters in the November elevtion.
Although Godwin agreed to submit the bond issue legislation, he told a news conference after meeting with key legislators today that he would sign the bill only if it wins broad support among legislators. Both of the state's announced gubernatorial candidates - Democrats Henry E. Howell and Andrew P. Miller - and presumed Republican candidate John N. Dalton - have announced their support for such package.
The governor, who campaigned for the state's 1968 bond issue, said he would campaign for the current proposal. But he warned the legislature to add no more projects to the list of college, prison, park, port and mental health projects in the list he submitted today. "I am pretty firm on the $125 million . . . that is the top figure," Godwin said, adding he would have preferred a smaller issue.
During the press conference, Godwin disclosed that he is generally agreeable to budget amendments prepared by the House and Senate During the current session and appeared to edge closer to approval of a $10 million appropriation for Metrorail construction in Northern Virginia.
Although he vetoed a similar item last year, the governeor noted today that language added to the appropriation bill this year "seeks to accomplish the one thing that was my chief objection from the outset" to the huge project "the open-ended nature of its costs."
At the same time, Godwin twice told reporters he is "not committed" to approving the item, but said that is "more palatable" in its current form, which allows him to spend the $10 million if he is satisfied that Metro's over-all costs are being kept within prove the $10 million this time be appropriate limits. Legislative leaders cause he was consulted on the item and his staff helped draft terms of the have said they expect Godwin will ap-Metro appropriation.
Godwin also appeared to ease another budget dispute when he said today that he would not grant state employees a pay increase approved by the Senate if it would force him to cut back aid to the state's localities, a fear many legislators have expressed over the budget proposals. Such a step would be "the height of irresponsibility," the governor said.
Nearly 70 per cent, or $86.4 million of the $125 million bond issue Godwin proposed would go for college construction and about 19 per cent of that amount would go to the two Northern Virginia schools. Northern Virginia Community College would get $5.8 million for a new academic building at its Alexandria campus and funds for renovating a building there and two others at its Annandale campus.
Prison projects would get $21.5 million, or 17.2 per cent, of the total, ports would get $8 million, or 64.4 per cent, parks $5 million, or 4 per cent and mental health $4 million, or 2.8 per cent. The individual items are largely one taken from a $97 million construction program Godwin proposed last year, which the legislature refjected.
All of the projects are "urgently needed and cannot be delayed," Godwin said. In fact one of te project proposals, construction of an $8 million library at Virignia Polytechnic Institute and State University at Blacksburg, dates from Godwin's first term as governor, which ended seven years ago.
Despite an increasing inclination among voters to reject bond issues since the 1968 issue, Godwin said today that chances for voter approval of the current issue aren "excellent." He will be forcing the legislature to fund the projects out of current revenues, a step that will force "a tax increase of sizable proporations."
Later, at a meeting of the tax-writing House Finance Committee, Northern Virginians split over the proposed gasoline tax and Del. Warren E. Barry (R-Fairfax) led opposition to the measure which only one Northern Virginia legislator opposed last year.