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Fairfax County supervisors eyeing food tax

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Local,Maryland,Virginia,Kate Jacobson,Taxes,Fairfax County

Diners in Fairfax County might have to pay more for their meals when eating out, if a measure being pushed by some county supervisors passes.

Supervisor Gerry Hyland, D-Mount Vernon, has proposed a meal tax on restaurant goers in the county that he said would help pay for necessary services in the county. The tax could generate anywhere between $80 million to $100 million, if it was set a 4 percent, allowing the board to reduce real estate taxes, said Hyland.

Portions of the tax could be dedicated to essential services, such as public safety and education, he said.

Most supervisors supported putting the tax on a referendum for voters to decide. But they debated whether putting it on the November ballot would give the board enough time to discuss it with residents and businesses.

"There has to be some real serious discussion with folks about what all this means," Supervisor Penny Gross, D-Mason, said. "I don't think we have time to do that."

Others echoed Gross' concerns. "If we do put it on the ballot and don't have [resident and business] support -- it fails," Supervisor Jeff McKay, D-Lee said. "It has a chance with the public, but that chance is increased dramatically if we have the business community on board."

Other supervisors said they would support a referendum to let voters decide, but would not support a food tax. Supervisor Pat Herrity, R-Springfield, said residents are already taxed too much, and with many of the county's residents being public employees, they're facing furloughs and pay freezes.

"Many of our residents are facing uncertain futures," he said. "I can't support it."

Erin DeWaters, spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber does not support the tax. She also said the chamber does not support any tax that would target a single industry, because it places an undue burden on business owners.

This isn't the first time the tax has been discussed at the board. In 2009, supervisors voted down a meal tax and in 1992, voters opposed a meal tax referendum.

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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