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Supreme Court hears transportation authority arguments

Attorneys for opponents of regional transportation authorities told the Supreme Court of Virginia today that the General Assembly cannot delegate the power to impose taxes to non-elected bodies.

William G. Broaddus, responding for the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, countered that no delegation is involved because the legislature specified the type of taxes and fees and their amount as a major part of a transportation bill adopted last year. Broaddus conceded, however, that the authority ultimately decides whether to impose those taxes and fees.

Arguing for the opponents, Wesley G. Russell Jr. emphasized that sanitary districts are the only non-elected bodies with taxing powers. That exception proves the rule because members of the sanitary district’s governing body must also be members of the local government, Russell said.

In their questioning, however, members of the court seemed to be concerned about a ruling that would affect the power of what Broaddus described as “literally hundreds of authorities,” such as industrial development and housing and redevelopment authorities, to finance projects through bonds and other means.

The court granted expedited review of the legality of the regional transportation plan and heard arguments barely six months after the legislation took effect and little more than four months after Arlington Circuit Judge Benjamin N.A. Kendrick rejected challenges to it. The court is expected to decide the case on March 2.

The cases are Marshall v. Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, Record No. 071959 and Loudoun County Board of Supervisors v. NVTA, 071979.

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