Fairfax residents want developers, tourists to pay for roads

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Photo - Tysons Corner (Examiner file photo)
Tysons Corner (Examiner file photo)
Local,Virginia,Taylor Holland

Most Fairfax County residents say traffic congestion plagues their daily commutes, but they think developers and out-of-towners rather than county residents should pony up the money for roads and other transportation projects that would make life better.

Those were the findings of a three-week county survey of residents that showed most residents wanted someone else -- developers, tourists or business travelers -- to provide the nearly $3 billion the county said it needs for transportation over the next decade. Nearly 80 percent want to put the bill on developers. Two-thirds want to tax car rentals, and nearly as many propose taxing hotel stays.

County Board members and other officials said they weren't surprised that residents want the roads but resist paying more for them.

Top 10 Fairfax County choices to pay for roads
Developer contributions: 79%
Vehicle rental tax: 66.8%
Hotel tax: 62.7%
Gas tax (cents per gallon): 59.8%
Increased commercial and industrial rate 52.4%
Gas tax (percent of sales price): 50.8%
Registration fee on new/newly located vehicles: 47.4%
Commercial parking fee: 46.7%
Sales tax: 41.8%
Regional vehicle registration fee: 37.1%
Source: County survey

"People support the hotel tax because they say, 'I'm not going to stay in a hotel,' " said Supervisor Michael Frey, R-Sully. "It's always somebody else [paying]."

Among the options residents considered was a 1 percent sales tax on services such as haircuts, which officials estimate could raise $367.5 million per year, and a 4 percent meals tax, which could raise $80 million per year.

Supervisor Jeff McKay, D-Lee, said the survey will, at a minimum, allow the county to show the state's General Assembly -- which must approve many of the proposed taxes -- that the county has at least started talking with residents about how to fund the transportation shortfall.

"No one voluntarily agrees to be taxed," McKay said. "It's just a reality. We always hear that it's better to use other people's money, but this shows that Fairfax residents are willing to talk about this and that they know it won't be free."

More than 40 percent of residents surveyed supported an increase of taxes on gas or retail items or the imposition of a fee to use public parking spaces, taxes residents themselves would pay.

It's not clear what taxes the county would raise or impose, if any. The need for tax increases could be limited depending on how much money the county can extract directly from developers for those kinds of improvements, said Supervisor Pat Herrity, R-Springfield.

Board Chairwoman Sharon Bulova said the county would probably go back to residents after determining what taxes the General Assembly might allow the county to level.

"Residents still don't know how much the different sources of revenue will raise, and that might've changed [the] discussion," Bulova said. "This is all building our case for more transportation funding."

Despite nine public meetings, an online question-and-answer session and numerous media reports, only 1,725 of the county's 1.1 million residents completed the survey.

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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