Northern Virginia officials, reading between the lines as Gov. L. Douglas Wilder called for reduced state aid to local governments, said last night they expect cuts in financing for schools, social programs and transportation projects.
Although they acknowledged that Wilder's plan is likely to force them to slash some necessary programs to save others, most local leaders said Wilder's call for cuts is necessary.
"We're going to have to cut services across the board in housing, education, welfare . . . nearly everything," said Alexandria Mayor James P. Moran Jr., like Wilder a Democrat. "It's going to hurt everyone, but I respect the governor for showing leadership."
Area officials said they are particularly concerned about expected reductions in education aid under a state formula that often takes money from wealthy school districts such as those in Northern Virginia and redistributes it to poorer, rural districts.
"We have programs for the disadvantaged and minorities who move here from across the world . . . and those programs are expensive," said Audrey Moore, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and a Democrat.
Moore said that although education is "a logical place for the government to go" to save money, "my biggest concern is that we don't get bigger cuts here than other places do."
In rapidly growing Prince William County, where state money makes up half the school system's budget this year, officials also are nervously awaiting Wilder's education cuts to see how they will affect the system's expansion.
"We've been hiring teachers and building two schools a year," Deputy County Executive Lawrence D. Hughes said. "We're not sure about the specifics" of Wilder's plan, he said, "but we know there will be a lot of pressure on the government to continue that."
Recent estimates indicate that Northern Virginia already has lost about $30 million in state aid in the budget year that began July 1, and with more cuts on the way, the pressure on local officials to raise taxes will increase.
The legislature has approved a plan to allow Arlington officials to begin taxing restaurant meals without putting the issue before voters. Although the County Board has no plans to consider such a tax, officials aren't promising it won't come up as Arlington's budget gets tighter.
"I think it's irresponsible for anybody to say, 'Read my lips, no new taxes,' " County Board Chairman Albert C. Eisenberg said. "The public doesn't believe it anyway."
Several area officials expect Wilder's plan to include withholding $60 million in real estate filing fees the state is scheduled to return to local governments during fiscal 1991 and 1992.
That would be particularly painful to Northern Virginia, which would receive about half the money, earmarked primarily for transportation.
Several Northern Virginia legislators said last night that such a move by the state would undermine an agreement they made two sessions ago to support the widening of Route 58 in southern Virginia in exchange for the return of the fees, called a recordation tax.
"We fought so hard for that recordation," said Del. Leslie L. Byrne (D-Fairfax). "You'll see a united front by the Northern Virginia delegation to save that."
Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder announced several steps last night aimed at dealing with the state's $1.4 billion budget shortfall during the next two years:
State agencies will be told to cut their spending by $375 million over two years.
State employees will not get a planned 2 percent pay raise on Dec. 1, saving $145 million.
Some state employees will be laid off; no details were given.
Aid to local governments will be cut; no details were given.
Some state agencies will be consolidated or closed.
Lottery profits will go to pay for state operating expenses, not the programs they originally were earmarked to support.
A moratorium on construction of state buildings will continue.
No taxes will be raised.