"Although it's certainly tempting to control our own destiny and make our own decisions, that reaction is quickly extinguished by the awesome task of putting together a new government."
That was the initial reaction of Gerald W. Hyland, Mount Vernon District Supervisor and Vice Chairman, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, to the notion of Northern Virginia becoming a separate state. "The idea of splitting us off is disastrous," he stated.
Citing just one example of state responsibility, Hyland noted, "We have toyed with the idea of independence over the years, particularly in the context of roads and transportation. It is overwhelming."
Lee District Supervisor, Dana Kauffman, buttressed Hyland's analysis. "Instead of splitting off, local government needs the power to do what they do best and state government needs to retain what it does best," he said.
"It would take a whole new funding structure to perform all the tasks and create a total state government structure," Kauffman said. "This is not a new idea, Supervisor Martha Pennino suggested this back in the late 1980s," Kauffman said, and Hyland noted as well.
"What should be considered is more discretionary control over local spending," Kauffman explained. "It would be the best thing in the world, particularly for an urban county, to have more control over its destiny."
HYLAND SUGGESTED that people have to focus on the total picture. "When you consider the totality of Virginia, where we send our kids to school, the overall university system, and all the other things involved, it would have a devastating effect on the rest of the state," he exclaimed.
"The real answer is not a separate state but for Richmond to treat northern Virginia fairer. This applies in particular to the amount of money we contribute to the state coffers," Hyland urged.
"But the situation is improving. The allocation of road funds has improved over the years," he cited as an example.
Hyland saw the main problem as a reaction to the Legislature's attitude toward northern Virginia. "It's insulting not to let us decide our own fate as far as the tax referendum is concerned. The sales tax referendum would have let the voters in each jurisdiction decide. To thwart that desire is a definite insult."
But, as for establishing a completely separate state, Hyland concluded, "It's a great temptation to toy with but it's not in the best interests of either us or down state. And from our perspective, if you think of all the things a state is responsible for and must do, it is staggering."
BOTH SUPERVISORS SPECULATED that, in the long run, being a separate state could increase the tax burden without solving the problems envisioned by the voters. They did not see it as a viable solution to the frustrations of northern Virginia.
"When I first became a Supervisor we proposed a tax increase to address our particular needs in Fairfax County, but without a referendum. The Legislature went along, but only if it was preceded by a referendum. It never happened," Hyland remembered.
"If we had done it we would have probably all been voted out of office. But I would have been willing to pay that price if it would have given us the financial means to effectively address our problems," he concluded.