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Meals Tax? Pittsylvania Voters Say 'No' to Their Political Elite

Voters in Virginia's Pittsylvania County defeated a referendum yesterday that would have allowed their county supervisors to collect up to a 4% tax on prepared foods. In virtually every place in Virginia that has put the issue of a meals tax on the ballot, voters have defeated the measures. According to today's Danville Register-Bee, "Unofficial returns show 10,908 votes cast against the proposal, compared with 4,484 voters -- roughly 30 percent -- in favor." Make that 29.1%!

County officials and their political friends on the Register-Bee's editorial staff emphasized the revenue raised would equate to a two-cent increase in the real estate tax rate. Nevertheless, the meals tax referendum only gained the support of 36% of voters in the areas of the county with the highest property values.

The paper's November 4 editorial was especially disingenuous in urging voters to approve the referendum when they quoted the county administrator saying, "This is just asking the people's permission to do it." Then yesterday, the paper reported on the previous evening's county supervisor's meeting with the headline, "County makes final pitch for meals tax." The board chairman was quoted with the following elitest comment: "I don't think people would miss that money very much." Afterall, our political leaders know best.

But, you say, Arlington has a meals tax, and voters never had the opportunity to vote on it. That's correct! About 15 years ago when Virginia's General Assembly approved the authorizing legislation, one of Arlington's senators added a floor amendment that enabled any county with the County Manager form of government (guess which one that would be) can avoid putting a meals tax before the voters if the tax is unanimously approved by the county's board of supervisors. Guess the political rulers just didn't want us serfs to have another thing to worry about when we went to the polls.