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Virginia Counties Lobbyist Sneaks Behind Taxpayers' Backs

A week ago on Sunday, October 2, 2016, we growled about Fairfax County's proposed meals tax, taking the opportunity to remind taxpayers of how the Arlington Count Board managed to levy a meals tax without a referendum. We took note of the fact the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted on June 7, 2016 to place a meals tax referendum on the November 8, 2016  election ballot in order for the county's voters to decide whether the county can levy the meals tax.

In the Growls, we reiterated that Arlington County voters were cheated out of the opportunity of voting on whether Arlington County should levy the meals tax because of some smoke-filled, backroom shenanigans in the Virginia General Assembly in the early 1990's. To levy a meals tax, county governments were required to obtain voter approval before implementing the tax. However, an amendment put forth by an Arlington senator voided the need for the referendum if there was a unanimous vote of the county's legislators. As a result, the Arlington County Board levied an essentially unauthorized meals tax.

Now we learn the lobbying arm of Virginia's county legislators, i.e., the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo), are planning to lobby the Virginia General Assembly to grant counties "the authority to adopt a local meals tax without referendum." In addition, VACo is also proposing "the county meals tax rate be raised to a cap of eight percent." Both proposals are contained in VACo's Preliminary 2017 Legislative Program, dated Friday, October 6, 2016. Here are lines 406-410 of what VACo is proposing:

  • 406 - Meals and Tobacco Tax Authority
  • 407 - VACo supports granting counties the authority to adopt a local meals tax without
  • 408 - referendum. VACo proposes the county meals tax rate be raised to a cap of eight
  • 409 - percent, which is consistent with current rates used by cities and towns. VACo
  • 410 - also supports equal authority among all counties to levy and collect a tobacco tax.

When we last checked in February 2006, the Virginia Association of Counties cost Arlington County taxpayers about $34,000 annually for the so-called lobbying services VACo provides. County dues are based upon population.

Obviously, VACo staff didn't insert that language in the Preliminary 2016 Legislative Program without direction from some county's elected officials. However, voters throughout Virginia need to urge their county legislators to direct VACo staff to remove lines 406-410 from the final legislative package.

If you oppose a potential doubling of the meals tax when eating out in the county, not to mention getting shafted when democracy bypassed Arlington County as the county's political elite slipped a tax noose around the necks of Arlington taxpayers in the early 1990's, take a few minutes and write to the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130

And tell them ACTA sent you.

At the Kingstowne Patch online news service, Mary Ann Barton provides links to the groups on both sides of the Fairfax County meals tax:

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