Panel created to push tax hike

Citizens for Better Transportation, a group that endorses the half-cent sales tax referendum, has formed a Prince William steering committee made up of members across the county political spectrum whose goal is to help educate the public about the ballot measure.

The announcement came Friday at the Manassas Train Depot.

With 39 days left until Election Day, the referendum’s proponents and opponents are going at full speed on reaching out to voters in what will be a decision over what direction Northern Virginia will take on its congested transportation network.

The referendum ballot question asks voters to raise the region’s sales tax by half a cent to fund $5 billion in regional transportation projects during the next over years. Opponents say that amount is not nearly enough to solve the region’s problems or is not targeted enough toward mass transit.

Phone banks, door-to-door literature drops, mailings and forums all have been tactics taken by both sides in Prince William, the region’s second-largest jurisdiction, and in Manassas and Manassas Park.

“We’re running this like a campaign, a campaign without a candidate, is how they’re describing this,” said Buck Waters, spokesman for the steering committee. “It’s about time Prince William flexes a bit of its muscle … There is no viable alternative on the table, and no one has come forward with any semblance of a workable plan, other than this transportation referendum.”

Those opposed to the ballot measure include anti-tax groups, who say the money could come from a more responsible state government. They are joined by environmentalists and smart-growth advocates, who say the money will allow local governments to continue irresponsible land use that creates sprawl.

“They’re bound and determined that this is the only way to do it,” said Ella Shannon, president of the Prince William County Taxpayers Alliance. “I can’t say that we have better answers. The only thing is that they have to make better use of the money that they have.”

Waters said such talk is easy rhetoric but it doesn’t have much weight unless it comes with a list of state cuts. According to Waters: Where is the list of 72 politicians who are willing to provide the majority in both houses to give Northern Virginia more money?

Steering committee members are: Supervisors Hilda M. Barg, D-Woodbridge, John D. Jenkins, D-Neabsco, L. Ben Thompson, R-Brentsville, and Edgar S. Wilbourn III, R-Gainesville; Roy Beckner of S. W. Rodgers Inc. in Gainesville; Democrat Lou Brooks of Manassas; retired U.S. Navy Capt. Jim Bryant, president of Manassas Cab; Rick Coplen of Woodbridge; John Elkin, executive vice president of Burgess & Niple Inc. in Woodbridge; John Foote of Manassas; Manassas Mayor Marvin L. Gillum; John Hampton, president of Prince William 66 Partnership and owner of Express Personnel Services in Manassas; Carol Kalbfleisch, chairwoman of the Prince William Regional Chamber of Commerce; Frank Lasch of Dumfries; Prince William Clerk of Court Dave Mabie; Jerry Osgood, owner of Lobster Claw in Manassas; Rex Parr of Manassas; Prince William Planning Commission at-large member Hector Quintana of Woodbridge; David Schwengel of Washington Gas in Springfield; past county board chairwoman Kathleen Seefeldt; George Shamer of the Prince William Regional Chamber of Commerce; Roger Snyder of Manassas; Kris Spitler of the Prince William County-Greater Manassas Chamber of Commerce; county Sheriff E. Lee Stoffregen; Ken Thompson, president of Ken Thompson & Associates in Lake Ridge; John Walvius of the Prince William Regional Chamber of Commerce and Waters.

Persons with questions on the referendum can call the steering committee at (703) 791-3543.

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