WASHINGTON – The Virginia Senate has passed a bill that would allow nine jurisdictions in Northern Virginia to create a local income tax specifically to pay for local road improvements.
The communities would be allowed to impose an income tax of up to 1 percent and they wouldn’t need voter approval. Both would be major changes to current practices for funding transportation in Virginia especially for counties.
Currently state law allows for a local income tax only if it is approved by voters. Most Virginia local governments do not pay for local road maintenance or construction. Large cities however do maintain local roads as does Arlington County.
Sen. Chap Peterson (D-Fairfax), who voted against the bill, says the proposal is a bad idea because it would take the pressure off the General Assembly to fully fund transportation statewide.
“We’d essentially wave the white towel, raise the white flag, whatever the metaphor is, in terms of getting sufficient state funding,” Peterson says.
If the measure is approved, local governments would still have to decide whether to impose the tax. They could opt to set the tax between .25 percent or as high as 1 percent of personal income.
Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille says he’d like the city to have the power to impose an income tax but he’d want discretion over where to use the money.
Fairfax County Supervisor Chair Sharon Bulova says officials there have never considered a local income tax in the past because voters would not have supported it.
“There’s gonna be a lot of moving parts and moving pieces during the next days and weeks before we know what is actually going to emerge in terms of transportation funding,” she says.
The provision to allow for the local tax has yet to pass the House of Delegates.
The jurisdictions included in the bill are the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park.