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Warner's Advisor Explains Transportation Referendum

According to James “Jimmy” Hazel, senior advisor to Gov. Mark Warner, the November Transportation Referendum is not about building new roads.

“It’s about solutions to the current problems we have,” said Hazel at the Sept. 6 meeting of the Economic Development Commission (EDC).

Hazel gave an overview of the proposed half-cent sales tax and explained why he supports the referendum. The regional sales tax, which excludes food and drugs, is expected to raise $5 billion in 20 years for improving existing roadways, transportation networks and transit systems in Northern Virginia. Of that, $600 million will be targeted for transportation improvements in Loudoun County and another $350 million for the Rail to Dulles project.

“The money raised by the referendum stays here. This money is raised in Northern Virginia to be spent in Northern Virginia,” Hazel said. “It’s a supplement to moneys already targeted for Virginia through the VDOT formula.”

An EDC member said she heard negative comments about the referendum regarding the state possibly depleting transportation funds if the referendum passes.

“This referendum won’t cause us to take disproportionate cuts,” said Memory Porter, legislative liaison for the county. “We may take some cuts of the budget crisis, but we won’t take cuts disproportionate to the state.”

IF THE REFERENDUM passes, the 16-member Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) will govern spending of the tax money and decide which transportation improvements will be funded, Hazel said. NVTA will not be required to work with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) on any of the projects.

“VDOT knows it will have to compete with other road builders,” Hazel said.

So far, the Washington Airports Authority, the Town of Leesburg, Fairfax County and municipalities such as Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park have endorsed the referendum. The EDC also has gone on record supporting the referendum.