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Va. Senate Passes Income Tax for Transportation Bill

Vienna's Sen. Chap Petersen speaks out against proposal that would allow localities to impose a 1 percent income tax without voter approval.

The Virginia State Senate has passed a bill that would enable Virginia localities to create a local income tax to fund improvements to transportation infrastructure.

Under the legislation, SB 1313, which is now awaiting review in the House of Delegates, local governments would be allowed to establish an income tax of up to 1 percent without approval from voters.

The bill would affect the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William, and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park. 

Current Virginia law dictates a jurisdiction’s residents must approve a local income tax in a referendum. The majority of Virginia localities, like Fairfax County, rely on road maintenance from the state, with the exception of some areas including Arlington County, Henrico County in Richmond and some cities in the Hampton Roads District.

Fairfax Sen. Chap Petersen, who represents Vienna, has been vocal in his opposition to the bill, which passed the senate in a 27-11 vote.

Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston), who also represents parts of Vienna, supported the measure.

“This bill represents the worst possible deal for the Northern Virginia taxpayer,” Petersen said in a statement.

After Gov. Bob McDonnell’s $3.1 billion transportation funding package failed to the pass the Senate, Petersen worried this new legislation would be deemed the new fix to the state’s ongoing transportation problems.

Sharon Bulova, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, said county staff had briefed her on the bill, but was unsure whether officials would support or consider such a tax should the bill become law.

“This was a surprise to us,” she said. “It was not something we expected to be introduced.”

County officials haven’t explored income tax referenda in the past because voters would not have supported it, she said.

“It’s had a lot of strings attached to it that would ensure its defeat,” she said.

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