Northern Virginia officials cool to proposal allowing local tax hikes to pay for roads

|
Local,Virginia,Transportation,Steve Contorno

Local leaders are skeptical of a state Senate plan that would allow Northern Virginia communities to levy a 1 percent income tax to raise money for much-needed road work, holding out hope that the General Assembly will find a statewide funding solution instead.

Before the measure passed the Senate last week with bipartisan support, Sen. Walter Stosch, R-Glen Allen, said a local income tax option "may be the best in transportation we pass this year." That worries leaders around the Beltway, many of whom aren't interested in the proposal.

"I wouldn't even allow it to come up for consideration," said Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille.

For years, localities in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads had the option to ask residents at the polls for permission to create a 1 percent income tax for local roads projects, but it has not materialized anywhere. The Senate voted to lift the referendum requirements and instead give counties and cities the power to levy the tax on their own, and the House will consider the plan in coming weeks.

"In my region, it offers a bit of hope," said Sen. Janet Howell, D-Reston.

The Senate balked at a series of comprehensive transportation funding proposals last week, including Gov. Bob McDonnell's plan to raise $3 billion for road work by increasing the sales tax to 5.8 percent and getting rid of the 17.5-cent sales tax. That package passed the House, and the Senate must take it up by Wednesday or transportation could be dead for the session.

Sharon Bulova, chairwoman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, said she was surprised the Senate moved to give localities new taxing power, though she's skeptical the plan will pass the House.

"Wouldn't it be interesting if this is the only thing that survived?" Bulova asked. "Transportation is supposed to be a state responsibility, and a complaint we've consistently had is they don't want to raise new money for transportation and biting the bullet and instead shifting it off to the localities to do that."

Arlington County Supervisor Jay Fisette is sure some leaders would be interested in raising taxes on residents but said they should make that decision as a region.

If that's the case, count out Euille, who said he's sick of the state giving cities and counties some authority but with strings attached.

"For many years, we have been advocating for the authority to impose a local income tax for general funds," Euille said. "For them all of the sudden to say we're going to do this but for transportation, that's not the right way to do it."

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

View article comments Leave a comment