December 21, 2000
tops budget issues
Alfred M. Biddlecomb
Plans to continue phasing out the car tax, despite a slump in the economy,
are getting mixed reviews from lawmakers in Richmond where another fierce
debate seems to be brewing over Northern Virginia transportation needs.
Gov. James S. Gilmore III renewed his pledge to eliminate the unpopular
tax during remarks made to the Senate and House budget-writing committees
Wednesday’s briefing gave lawmakers a look at Gilmore’s amendments to
the state’s $48 billion budget which will be debated during the 2001 General
Assembly session beginning Jan. 10.
State legislators have already abolished 47.5 percent of the personal
property tax on automobiles and a 70 percent reduction is expected next
year with a full phase out expected in 2002. Phase out of the car tax is
contingent on 5 percent yearly increases in state tax collection.
With revenue projections for this year lagging below 5 percent, Gilmore
proposed a plan to use a lump sum payment of the state’s share of the national
tobacco settlement to raise revenues to the 5 percent level, thus triggering
further car tax relief.
“The bond of trust between the people and their government is a
sacred one,” Gilmore said in his remarks to the committees. “I’m
a man of my word and I keep my promises.”
Gilmore’s insistence on eliminating the tax, which was the cornerstone
of this 1997 campaign for governor, will cost an estimated $1.2 billion
Car tax reduction and slumping revenue figures caused Gilmore to postpone
further reduction in the sales tax on food which was reduced from 4.5 percent
to 4 percent earlier this year.
Another half percent was scheduled to be shaved off the tax on food
in April, but state revenue estimates won’t allow it.
Sen. Madison Marye, D-Shawsville, said the money and effort being made
to eliminate the car tax should go toward tax relief on groceries and helping
to give public school teachers a raise.
“I don’t see how you can find money to fund the car tax and can’t
find enough to remove this measly half a percent of the sales tax on food,”
Gilmore said he’s open to creative suggestions to further reduce sales
taxes on food during the upcoming legislative session.
Gilmore is also asking state agencies to make cuts ranging from 3 to
6 percent in order to save another $206 million from the budget.
Del. John A. “Jack” Rollison, R-Woodbridge, was visibly upset
at some of Gilmore’s new budget numbers and said he’s expecting a battle
over keeping transportation funding that was fought for by Northern Virginia
lawmakers during the last session.
The General Assembly approved a priority transportation fund last March,
which is supposed to set aside money to accelerate needed road projects.
Rollison said Gilmore’s plan would shift some of that money around replacing
cash with debts.
“This plan would turn $70 million in cash into debt and it would
take another $65 million out of the highway trust fund,” Rollison said
after Gilmore’s remarks. “That’s $135 million in transportation commitments.”
Rollison, co-chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said he
worries about money shuffling in the transportation budget.
“It’s as if the governor promised to buy us a home and then a year
later gives us a mortgage to pay off as well,” Rollison said. “The
governor is not being faithful to his promises.”
A number of Northern Virginia lawmakers are expected to endorse legislation
forming a special taxing district to fund Northern Virginia highway projects.
The formation of a Northern Virginia transportation authority would
allow the region to raise special tax revenues – either through sales
or fuel taxes – in order to finance regional road projects.
“There’s going to be legislation on that but we’re still debating
the form such an authority will take and how it will be funded,” Rollison
Rollison said he supports such a bill as long as the final decision
is left up to the voters in a local referendum. Such an authority would
include Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Arlington counties and Alexandria
and all other cities and towns within those counties’ boundaries.
Though Gilmore vetoed similar legislation last year, he has shown signs
in recent days of possibly supporting such a referendum. He even went as
far to say it sounded like a good idea on a local radio program earlier
Rollison, however, isn’t that optimistic.
“From what I’ve been hearing today, the governor’s already backtracking
on that,” Rollison said. “We’re still going to take a look at
it and see where it goes.”
Other budget amendments include:
n Taking $460 million of the tobacco settlement in a lump sum to pay
for college building and economic development projects.
n Bond issues totaling $600 million for public building construction,
improvements and maintenance. This includes $30.7 million for new academic
buildings at George Mason University’s Fairfax and Arlington campuses.
n An additional $10.1 million for public education, including $6 million
to expand a remedial program for students at low-performing schools.
n $38 million to give state employees raises averaging 3.5 percent under
the new pay-for-performance plan.
Alfred Biddlecomb is a staff writer for the Potomac News in Woodbridge.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Venison: Deer hunters provide food for the hungry
Bambi is good for Virginians in need.
The facts: Venison is one of nature’s leanest meats, and deer populations
continue to overburden limited land resources in Northern Virginia. In Virginia,
one in eight families is affected by hunger.
Hunters for the Hungry was started in 1991, and since then the program
has provided nearly 4 million servings of venison to Virginia’s needy.
In Manassas, the meat has gone to SERVE Inc.
“God love them. We love them over there,” said SERVE food
closet coordinator Helen McWhorten, of the hunters and meat processor Manassas
Frozen Foods. “And our clients love it.”
Over the past five years, she said SERVE has gotten hundreds of thousands
of pounds of meat from local hunters, who donate their freshly killed deer
through the program that pays for the meat processing.
This year, Manassas Frozen Foods on Main Street reports that local hunters
this season donated 56 deer, up from 24 last year.
Frank Parrish, owner of Manassas Frozen Foods, was going through donation
receipts last Thursday.
“Here’s a guy who donated two deer, 58 pounds and 105 pounds,”
he said. “Here’s one. 62 pounds. This guy donated Nov. 29, 82 pounds.
Here’s one. Not only did he donate the deer, he left $40 to pay for the
Hunters for the Hungry also makes the public aware of the tradition
of hunting and quality of deer meat.
“Five years ago when we started this, we couldn’t pay anyone to
eat deer meat,” McWhorten said.
So she said SERVE staff passed out recipe tips on how to cook venison.
It should be treated like beef, but cooked just a bit longer. For people
who want to dilute its bit of a gamy taste, it can be soaked in milk or
vinegar. Venison is superb in spaghetti sauce, or as a stew, McWhorten said.
“And now we have people who ask for it,” she said.
Parrish said hunters bring in their deer usually within 24 hours of
killing them. Deer can be hung overnight, provided they were gutted in the
field, and it is cold outside, he said. The deer is best kept clean by not
skinning them in the field, he said.
Manassas Frozen Meats provides SERVE with family-size packs of deer
meat, Parrish said.
The SERVE food closet provides an average of 2,200 people with a week’s
worth of groceries every month. The shelves are swelled now from Operation
Turkey, evidence of the community’s extreme generosity, McWhorten said,
and the venison is just one of many sources of protein families get.
Fresh produce, milk, overflowing amounts of bread, formula for infants,
meats from grocery stores and just about anything else you’d find at the
grocery that has been donated is given to needy families by SERVE, McWhorten
· Contact Chris Newman at [email protected].
to close Saturday
The strength of the economy is forcing Wolf’s Pizza to close its doors.
The pizza delivery shop has had problems with getting dependable help for
the last 10 months, and chef/owner Danny Wolf said it’s gotten to the point
where they can’t survive.
Wolf said his shop may shut down as early as this Saturday, or after
a few days next week.
“It’s funny, or sad, to say this – the economy is too good,”
Fellow downtown business owners sympathized with Wolf’s plight at the
Old Town Business Association meeting Wednesday morning.
“It’s a shame too because he makes award-winning pizza,” said
Arnold Levine, vice president of the Old Town Business Association. “But
if you can’t get the pizza delivered, you can’t get the business.”
Wolf’s Pizza opened in September 1999. His product is so good that Italian
chefs traveled to Manassas to learn his methods after he was the only non-Italian
to place at the World Pizza Championships in Italy last April.
That was three weeks of labor, too, Wolf joked at the time, saying he’ll
take it any way he can get it.
Some customers mail his breadsticks to friends in California, and others
come in to learn how he cooks them.
But the labor market was tougher than he ever imagined it would be.
Young people can easily move from job to job, which doesn’t lend itself
to a strong work ethic, he said. Drivers would not show up to work, and
didn’t bother to call. Wolf’s had to close for more than a day last month
because they couldn’t deliver.
Many low-skilled workers will only work for several weeks at a time,
he said, and McDonalds pays $8 to $9 an hour and doesn’t require that employees
“How do you compete with that?” Wolf asked, since it takes
six weeks before a new hire is cooking good pizzas consistently.
He points out that Pizza Outlet has closed three locations in Prince
William County but is holding on to them until the economy slows down.
Levine said independent shops are more greatly impacted when hired help
is not dependable. People will go to Target and Wal-Mart no matter who is
there, he said.
But shop owners have to project an image, and Wolf saw his service slipping.
“I’m that mom-and-pop shop that the big guy has hurt,” Wolf
said. “He survived because he’s got lots of crutches. The only crutch
I got is, well, nothing.”
Wolf does have his cooking skills to fall back on.
He is a trained chef who has cooked for Ronald Reagan in the White House.
He’s looking to taking a post as a chef at a top restaurant in Washington,
D.C., but nothing is final, he said. The shop maybe sold to one of the pizza
chains; he won’t say which.
· Contact Chris Newman at [email protected].
sells Jewish gifts
There’s an air of excitement among the young people shopping in the
Ner Shalom Judaica Shop.
Hanukkah has arrived and the adults help children select small gifts
to give to their parents during the Festival of Lights at Prince William
County’s only temple located on Spriggs Road.
But it wasn’t always this way.
For years, the Judaica Shop was like a traveling road show. The Menorahs,
candles, dreidels, gelt and gifts for sale were unpacked and repacked after
every event. It wasn’t until 1994 that a home was found for the shop in
the Congregation Ner Shalom temple.
“We’d load up our cars with all the boxes during the November and
December meetings and services,” Joan Cohn, manager of the store said.
“We’d set up our little store and then pack it all up again.”
When the temple was built six years ago, a space was designed by the
architects to house the Jucaida Shop. Now the walls of what was once a mobile
shop are lined with shelves, all holding merchandise related to the Jewish
Since the shop has become stationary, the inventory has grown as well.
Candle-lit and electric Menorahs, chocolate coins, wrapping paper and gift
items of all types are available, Cohn said. Plus, all the supplies needed
for a traditional Hanukkah celebration.
Cohn shops the area for Jewish-related gifts that might appeal to the
congregation of more than 125 families. While it used to be hard to find
Hannukah-related gift items in stores, Cohn said its become much better.
“Places stock things for Hanukkah now, it’s just how you stumble
upon it,” Cohn said.
The store is open before Sunday and Friday services, except in the summertime
when it remains closed for the season.
But the weeks before Hanukkah and during the eight days of the lighting
of the Menorah, which begins this evening, are special to everyone in the
congregation, Cohn said.
“Everybody has their own traditions. It depends on the family,”
Cohn said. “But this is a wonderful time.”
Hanukkah, observed by millions of Jewish people around the world, is
a holiday celebrating the rededication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem after
it had been turned into a pagan shrine by the Seleucid Emperor Epiphanes
The eight-day holiday falls according to the Jewish lunar calendar and
is celebrated by the Festival of Lights. Each night, a candle is added and
lit on the Menorah, symbolizing the number of days one jar of divine oil
lasted the Maccabees when they reentered the temple.
The Judaica Shop is a wonderful asset to the temple, according to its
president, Scot Rittenberg.
With families coming from all over Prince William County, southern Fairfax
County and northern Stafford County to attend services, it’s important to
offer the congregation a place to find gifts and supplies related to their
Friday’s annual Hanukkah service is always a special time to the congregation,
“The story of Hanukkah will be told and we will give gifts to the
children of the congregation,” Rittenberg said.
Following the lighting of the Menorah, everyone will eat latkes, the
traditional potato pancakes.
“This is the time for a festive celebration,” Rittenburg said.
· Caryn Goebel is a staff writer for the Potomac News in Woodbridge.
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