Opponents of the bill say it amounts to tax breaks for the rich. Advocates say it's about fair treatment for deserving veterans.
WASHINGTON — Depending on whom you ask, a bill that Virginia’s governor is about to consider involves either tax breaks for the rich or fair treatment for deserving veterans.
The bill’s focus is how two county club golf courses are taxed in Arlington County.
HB 1204 would require the Army Navy Country Club and Washington Golf and Country Club to be classified as “devoted to open space” in tax assessments. They’re currently classified as having “development potential.”
Under the tax code adjustment, Arlington County said it would lose an estimated $1.43 million a year.
The Arlington County Board has sent a letter asking Gov. Ralph S. Northam to veto the measure.
“These are golf courses for private interests, and to insist that we treat them the same way we might treat a public resource is not the precedent we’ve chosen to establish in Arlington,” Board Chair Katie Cristol said.
“We would love to have more parks that are available to all comers to throw a Frisbee or play a sport,” Cristol said. “These are not those types of public parks.”
The bill’s sponsor, Del. Tim Hugo (a Republican representing Fairfax and Prince William counties) believes it’s a matter of fairness.
“Every other golf course in Northern Virginia, Congressional [Country Club] across the way in Maryland, they tax us as open space,” Hugo said. “Arlington has it on their map as open space, but they tax it like residential.”
Offering a comparison, Hugo said the County Club of Fairfax Golf Course is taxed $100,000 annually, while the Washington Golf and Country Club pays $800,000 and Army Navy Country Club pays $1.5 million.
Both are currently in litigation over the issue.
“Those two golf courses, the tax that they pay, equals the next 11 golf courses in Northern Virginia,” Hugo said.
County tax assessment decisions should be made by local leaders, Cristol stressed.
“This bill shatters the long-standing principal in Virginia that the government closest and most accountable to the people should make land-use decisions,” she said. “We ask the governor to veto and affirm the rights of every locality in the Commonwealth.”
Hugo noted the bill passed the General Assembly with bipartisan support.
“We hope [Northam] signs it for the good of all the people, golfers — especially all those enlisted soldiers … and 5,000 veterans at Army Navy,” Hugo said.
Northam has until April 9 to take action on the bill.
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