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VA Senate Passes Bill to Tax Without Public Vote

Posted on the 12 February 2013 by Eowyn @DrEowyn


What happened to “no taxation without representation”?

The Commonwealth of Virginia’s Senate just passed a bill, Senate Bill 1313, enabling counties in Northern Virginia to impose a 1% income tax without public vote.

Tom Jackman writes for The Washington Times, Feb. 12, 2013, that the VA Senate sneakily passed the bill at night last week, on the last day such bills could emerge from one house or the other.

The bill was misleadingly titled “City of Portsmouth authorized to levy to generate revenue for transportation.” But the title didn’t mention that it would also authorize the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William, and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park to do the same. In other words, the bill gives the power to tax to the entire State of NoVa, plus Norfolk and Virginia Beach.

While it is true that this income taxing authority already exists in Virginia law, there is one important condition: It must be approved by a public referendum. But the new bill would eliminate that referendum, allowing a new income tax to be imposed simply by the local city council or board of supervisors passing a new ordinance.

Even more absurd is the fact that none of the counties or cities in North Virginia even want this taxing authority. Of the leaders whom Tom Jackson surveyed in all five major jurisdictions, only Arlington board chair Walter Tejada was even open to considering it.

But even Tejada was not exactly enthused by the idea. He said, ”We’re following it intently. We’re always trying to find ways to fund transportation projects, and considering we were ranked number one in gridlock, any resources would be helpful.” Tejada said that “too many times the state has been passing the buck to us” — the counties — and traffic’s not going anywhere. So we’re just going to monitor this closely.”

Prince William Board Chairman Corey Stewart said, “It’s just another dumb idea coming out of the General Assembly. We have never requested that power, we don’t want that power and we would never use that power.”

Stewart said the notion of allowing local governments to impose an income tax could harm Virginia’s competitiveness with other states. “One of the reasons Virginia is so competitive” with other states “is we don’t have local governments imposing income taxes.” He added, “I think the mere threat of a locally imposed income tax will have a dampening effect on investment in the Commonwealth.”

Stewart pointed out that Virginia’s budget rose from $23.5 billion in 2002 to $39 billion in 2011. “When your income goes up by 66 percent and you don’t have enough money to make ends meet,” Stewart said, “you don’t have a revenue problem, you’ve got a spending problem. They just haven’t made transportation a priority.”

State Sen. Chap Petersen (D) of Fairfax, who voted against the bill, said raising the income tax only penalizes local residents who file tax returns, but not drivers, workers or shoppers from other jurisdictions. And “once you give a local government taxing authority, inevitably they’re going to use it,” Petersen said.

The bill is now in the House finance committee, awaiting a House vote.

VA Senate passes bill to tax without public vote

Virginia state Sen. Walter A. Stosch (R-Henrico) is the sole sponsor of and voted “yes” on SB 1313.


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