WASHINGTON -- Backers of three statewide bond questions in Virginia are "reasonably comfortable" that two will be approved and cautiously optimistic that the third will pass as well.
But proponents said they are taking nothing or granted when voters go to the polls this Tuesday.
"In this political atmosphere, it's like Yogi [Berra] said, ~Predictions are difficult, especially about the future,'" said Larry Framme, chairman of the Virginians for Progress Foundation, a private group spearheading efforts to garner voter approval for the bonds.
"We're reasonably comfortable on the two for education and mental health," he said, "and we have our fingers crossed on parks."
Voters are being asked to approve $613 million bonds in three separate ballot questions. Of that total, $472.4 million would go to fund higher education facilities, $95.4 would fund parks and recreational facilities, and $ 45.2 million would fund mental health facilities.
Framme, who was Virginia's economic development secretary before Gov. L. Douglas Wilder asked him to guide a private sector bond campaign, said the foundation's latest polls show support for the education and mental health bonds in the high 60% range. Support for the parks bonds is in the 50% range, he said.
He added that the polling data were collected before Oct. 15, when television commercials outlining the bond plans and their objectives were first shown statewide.
Framme said the biggest obstacle to approval is voter skepticism about promises that bond issuance will not require a tax increase.
"We've been though four years of ~Read my lips,' and people are very skeptical when you tell them their taxes won't be raised," Framme said. "Thank you, George Bush."
Also before voters is a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow state officials to establish a permanent revenue-stabilization fund. if approved, the state would be able to stash money in the fund when revenues grow at above-average rates.
Currently, the state must spend money in the budget period during which it was received. Under the proposed amendment, however, when revenues rise faster than the previous six years' average, half of the surplus would go into the fund. And when revenues fall more than 2% below those forecast, the fund money could then be spent to meet half the shortfall.
In addition to the statewide ballot questions, voters in some municipalities also will be asked to approve local bond issues.
Fairfax County residents, for example, are being asked to approve a $130 million bond issue for transportation improvement projects. Under the proposal, $80 million would be dedicated to helping complete the Fairfax County Parkway and $50 million would be used to fund completion of a transportation hub at a Metrorail station.
Meanwhile, Arlington County voters are being asked to approve six separate bond issues totaling more than $ 106 million. The proposals include: $36 million for a water treatment plant; $24.43 million for public schools; $17.8 million for Metrorail stations; $13.42 million for roads; $11.87 million for parks and recreation; and $3.13 million for higher education.
Other local bond initiatives include: * A city of Chesapeake proposal for $57.98 million of bonds for public schools; * A Roanoke County plan to issue $17.79 million of bonds for library renovations, parks and recreation, and school improvements; and * A Loudoun County proposal to issue $15.42 million of bonds to build and outfit a new middle school.