Henrico county’s manager want a meals tax, and he wants the General Assembly to give the county the authority to impose one. Without a referendum. The reasons our local betters give for such a move are many — there’s a budget deficit on the horizon, a looming issue with teacher pensions, unmet needs, etc., etc. Without this new money stream, county jobs will be lost, services cut, and other taxes will rise.
Residents heard similar arguments back in 2005, when the county said that unless voters approved a four percent meals tax, their property taxes would rise nearly nine percent. The proposal failed by a mere 151 votes.
Henrico property taxes did not skyrocket as had been threatened. The budget was balanced, too. All seemed well in the land.
But that narrow defeat appears to have stuck in the craw of retiring county manager Virgil Hazelett. So, rather than have his successor worry about voters having their say on the imposition of a new tax, he and a clatch of county grandees have enlisted Sen. Don McEachin to carry the tax bill for them. If approved in the General Assembly, it would give the county board the ability to impose the new tax, though the vote would have to be unanimous.
The General Assembly should say not only ‘no,” but “hell no.”
The reason is very simple: if the county truly needs this new tax, then it should be the voters who decide whether to impose it. The 2005 vote was close — very close. it’s entirely possible that a meals tax would pass in the future. But cutting county voters out of the equation smacks of arrogance coupled with bitterness.
Not to mention the strong odor of fear:
Henrico officials objected strongly to the suggestion that county officials are afraid to face voters in a referendum.
“The county is not scared of its residents,” said [John] Vithoulkas, who will be sworn in as county manager today.
Of course you are, chuckles. You’re terrified. Otherwise, you, Virgil and the rest would not be asking the General Assembly to keep the proles out of the equation.
You want a tax? Stand up and make your case — to the voters, in a referendum.