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Leaders Discuss Secession Idea

When it comes to the idea of Northern Virginia's seceding from the Commonwealth and forming its own state, local leaders have mixed feelings.

Supervisor Elaine McConnell (R-Springfield) posed the idea in the first place, but Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) and Sully District Planning Commissioner Ron Koch have serious doubts about it.

"We all feel it sometimes, but I think we need to focus a little more on realistic and practical solutions," said Frey. "Don Quixote tilted at windmills but never really got anything solved, and talk of secession sort of strikes me as in the same mode. It might make us feel better, but it really isn't a solution."

But McConnell isn't kidding. "The southern part of the state just wants to be left alone," she said. "They don't want roads and industry. I don't see any other way of getting the things our people need. It would be $140 million to $150 million more in taxes [for Northern Virginia]."

She believes the governor should issue a mandate that each jurisdiction produce some revenue so that Southern Virginia residents realize that "Northern Virginia's not going to support you forever."

NOTING THAT 19 CENTS on the dollar is all Northern Virginia gets back from the state, McConnell says things are only going to get worse. "I don't see any way out of it, unless we get out of the Dillon Rule or make them give us more money back," she said. "They won't even give us a referendum [to levy our own taxes for roads and/or schools]."

Although secession may not be the answer, she said, "something drastic" is needed "if we continue on this path of tax and tax and no relief. I think there'll be a rebellion in another few years because the assessments will go up again next year. We have no other income but real-estate taxes."

McConnell said she mentioned secession because "I was fed up with all our money going to Richmond and them not giving us enough money for our roads and schools. I felt like it was time for our people to have a choice — either wait for years to get roads and schools or pay the extra penny [in sales tax]."

She said that, in citizen polls about secession, in some cases 86 percent of the participants favored her idea. Said McConnell: "We have to do something innovative to get independent of Richmond."

However, the idea is not new. "It seems like every time the state and Northern Virginia butt heads, this idea comes up," said Koch. "Every time we feel shortchanged, people start mentioning it."

He believes it would be an "enormous undertaking" to create all new laws and entities dealing with the new state's financial, legal, land-use and transportation systems. Therefore, he'd anticipate that, rather than starting from scratch, the new state would simply adopt Virginia's laws.

“IT’S ONE THING TO SAY, 'Let's create our own state,' but another to do the nuts and bolts of it," explained Koch. "And I think it would be devastating for the rest of Virginia because a lot of their financial wealth comes from here. I don't see it happening, but who knows? The work to do everything would be incredibly complicated."

Besides, he said, the current Northern Virginia delegation in the General Assembly couldn't even agree among itself on a local tax referendum. "What makes us think they could get along if we were a separate state?" he asked. "We've got to start playing as a team — otherwise, we're going to keep getting the short end."