Henrico county to voters: drop dead

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.

  • Hell — at that rate, why not give *all* the localities the same authority… see how that floats?

    • NormLeahy

      Cities and towns can do that now, and, according to the RTD article, “39 counties have imposed meals taxes after getting voter approval.” A bill to give all of them the ability to impose a meals tax? That would be fun to watch.

      I don’t have any problem with voters deciding to tax themselves more. The meals tax came within a whisker of passing in 2005. If we are to believe that the county has changed a lot since then, both in political leanings and demand for services, the county should try another referendum. I imagine it would pass.

      I have an enormous problem with a county leadership that has decided to bypass the voters entirely in order to get the taxing authority they want. That’s craven.

      • All the hipsters will vote for it, thinking it will soak those “rich” folks who eat out, and then they’ll be angry when the restaurants in which they work lose business and lay them off.

      • Here you go: http://www.richmondsunlight.com/bill/2012/hb1157/ – I assume Delegate Merricks put it in at the request of either Henry or Pittsylvania County. It was killed by the House Finance Committee last year. Not sure if anyone has resubmitted the idea this year.

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