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Just Why Are Arlington County Employees Special?

Arlington County and Schools employees are eligible for a “live where you work” grant if they purchase a home in the county. The authority was granted to the county by the 2002 General Assembly in HB 1078 patroned by Del. Bob Brink. That same year, a similar bill (SB 384, patroned by Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple) was defeated in a Senate committee.

The Arlington County Board adopted (requires Adobe) the grant program in June 2002. Similar legislation by the General Assembly in 2004 enabled the Board to extend (requires Adobe) the grant program to employees of Constitutional Offices in June 2004.

Employees who qualify for the grants receive 1% of the sales price of the home they purchase. The county and schools each budgeted $60,000 for the grants when the Board first adopted this employee subsidy.

ACTA has questioned the grants in the past. A look at the county’s 2007 “profile” makes us wonder why Arlington’s two local governments think its employees warrant special treatment. One map on page 6 show the number of Arlington residents working in other jurisdictions while a second map shows the number of residents of other jurisdictions working in Arlington, according to the 2000 census. A couple of examples will show just how absurd the program is:

  • There were 1,230 Arlington County residents who worked in Loudoun County while 2,671 Loudoun residents worked in Arlington.
  • There were 20,476 Arlington County residents who worked in Fairfax County while 48,678 Fairfax residents worked in Arlington.

If Arlington’s two local government units are having trouble hiring employees, the way to correct that is by increasing salaries, or offering bonuses for special skills, rather than by offering special perquisites. Otherwise, it’s another case of “government by government and for government.”

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