Not since the War Between the States when West Virginia achieved statehood in 1863 has the Commonwealth undergone such conflict. “West Virginia did not consider themselves a part of Virginia,” said Del. Thomas Davis Rust (R-86th) of Herndon, emphasizing that he is against a potential secession. “This comes up every 20 years or so. I think we can solve our problems within the process,” he said.
But other Herndon and Dranesville officials said they could see some advantages to the idea.
“First thing is to throw out the Dillon Rule,” said Herndon town councilman William “Bill” Tirrell.
“We no longer need to operate under the Dillon Rule – no longer need to grovel to Richmond,” said Town of Herndon mayor Carol Bruce of the rule that dictates jurisdictions have only the power specifically given to them by the General Assembly.
“THERE IS A POTENTIAL positive,” said Herndon town councilman Harlon Reece. “This would allow for some restructuring — do away with the Dillon Rule — more control at the local level. Now we do what the charter tells us or ask Richmond,” he said.
Some resistance to the complete elimination of the Dillon Rule was offered by Fairfax County Supervisor Stuart Mendelsohn (R-Dranesville). “The Dillon Rule has some benefit, such as putting a brake on a small group” from making radical changes too hastily, he said. “I would modify, not do away with Dillon,” said Mendelsohn.
“The most important thing to come out of this, aside from economics, would be the State of Northern Virginia would not embrace the Dillon Rule,” said Herndon town councilman John De Noyer. “This would be a great step forward for progress. In Virginia a constitutional amendment is virtually impossible,” he said.
“Personally, I think it would be a desirable thing for Northern Virginia because of the economics. The whole southern portion would fight this tooth and nail — Northern Virginia is a cash cow,” said De Noyer. The potential new state could create its own taxing structure. “Northern Virginia has more of a high tech economy. An agrarian tax structure is no longer applicable,” he said.
“Getting a fresh start allows for a modern tax structure,” said Reece. “We’ve gone away from an agricultural-based economy and to a technology-based economy,” he said.
A NORTHERN VIRGINIA STATE might delay projects like Metro, said Reece, serving on the DATA board since the first of this year. “We’re starting to get support at the General Assembly level. We would have to start all over,” he said. The federal government promised 50 percent of the funding and an additional 25 percent would come from the Commonwealth of Virginia.
And while Reece said the Dulles Corridor and Route 28 projects would face “a more friendly group of legislators in a Northern Virginia state, there would still be some start up time.”
Rust, Reece’s DATA predecessor, agreed with him regarding Metro. “With a new state, Metro wouldn’t happen as quickly and we would lose the state’s 25 percent.
“There would be new and interesting ways to create revenue,” said Bruce. “We could react quickly to situations — unified in our focus. In this area we face the same problems of traffic. We would not have to compete with the south. Our money would stay here,” she said.
“We could move forward faster with mass transit. We could get light rail to Dulles and Metro faster. We could reduce class size faster,” in the schools, she said. As a way to generate revenue, Bruce suggested, “we could start charging the telecommunications [companies] for tearing up our streets. We could revamp the tax structure,” starting by reducing the tax on food in supermarkets, she said.
USER FEES would be another viable revenue source, said Herndon town councilman Richard “Rick” Thoesen. “We have good economic resources here. Perhaps we could eliminate a state tax,” he said.
“We could focus on the things that led us to become our own state — education and transportation,” said Tirrell. “Our goals would be more in common. We would bring our own dollars closer to bear. We could do a wondrous job improving schools and roads. We would have to look to the federal side as to how we would qualify for funds,” he said.
Metro could be built faster, said Mendelsohn. “We wouldn’t lose resources and could act faster,” he said.
Regarding roads, Rust said, “we send more money to Richmond than we get back. We would have to build a highway department from virtually zero. Alexandria, Arlington, Leesburg and Herndon take care of its own roads.” There would be a need to revisit the V-DOT allocation formula. The entire taxing structure — a lack of an agrarian economy in Northern Virginia, the composite index that drives state funding for schools — all work toward the disadvantage of Northern Virginia, said Rust.
“I don’t believe in the Marxist redistribution of wealth, but you must show some compassion,” said Herndon town councilman Dennis Husch. “The rest of Virginia would become like a third world country — I’m concerned about that. The southern and western parts of Virginia really depend on our economic engine,” he said.
“FUNDING FOR ROADS, school and metro would be there. Action could be taken faster, absolutely,” said Husch. “Think about why there wasn’t an approval for taxing referenda — the Speaker blocked it. There would not be that same attitude in Northern Virginia. We would not need to raise income tax — we would keep 100 percent of all dollars. Prince William and Loudoun would be asking how much of what they send to Northern Virginia would they get back and Fairfax County residents would be questioning why money goes to Loudoun and Prince William,” he said.
As a revenue generator, Husch proposes a toll plaza at the southern border of Northern Virginia – “incoming only,” he said.
“State funding is already using our tolls,” said Mendelsohn. “Financially, there would be a fantastic boom, from a parochial standpoint. We’d have a huge tax base which we would keep up here,” he said.
In the Dranesville District, “more tax dollars would be kept here — in the donor district of the donor county of the state. There would be much greater authority. We would totally revamp the tax structure — go away from the agrarian aspect and toward a mix of real estate, sales and income taxes,” said Mendelsohn.
“THIS IS WAY over the top,” said Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) opposing the concept of a Northern Virginia state. “Rather than form a new government, regional leaders should form a foundation — a non-profit, with a clean purpose, for example transportation or education, to do the things government isn’t doing, rather than form failed institutions,” he said.
“Raising taxes is not a solution, but a problem. The lack of resources is attributed to too much government. You don’t form a government to solve a problem caused by government,” said Delgaudio.