I note from a local story that the subject of a county-level meals tax has clawed its way out of the grave we voters put it into – again – last election.
Cash-strapped Loudoun County is looking to Richmond for permission to levy taxes on cigarettes and tickets to certain events as well as create a meals tax, something voters rejected three times in the past.
The matter came up during the Board of Supervisors meeting in Leesburg Oct. 6, when supervisors decided to ask state lawmakers for the same authority as towns and cities to impose these taxes. Loudoun is also looking to raise its transient occupancy, or hotel, tax, which now stands at 5 percent.
Of the potential new revenue sources, though, the meals tax has drawn the most controversy, since voters last rejected it just a year ago, and rather soundly. Residents also voted down the tax twice in the 1990s. If the proposal is approved in Richmond next year, Loudoun would be allowed to circumvent holding another voter referendum, since the board would be empowered to decide the matter.
The last time this came up was just last year, which is firmly within the service term of each and every sitting member of the Board of Supervisors. Every one of them knows from 1st-person experience what happened during that vote – the proposal was absolutely crushed, 70%-30%. As Supervisor Lori Waters puts it in the linked story, that’s a 40% margin, something that’s virtually unheard-of in any other election decision in the last couple of elections, if I recall. The Board has decided to pull the typical immature kid move of turning away from a parental “no” coming from Dad and running to Mom to get a different answer. Faced with solid opposition from the citizens of Loudoun for over a decade, they’ve decided they just don’t want to deal with us any more. They’re going to Richmond to have them override us and grant this authority to the BoS.
The arrogance is astounding, and that’s before you even hear what some of these people are saying.
However, with the county facing a $157 million budget gap next year, supporters of the matter said more sources of money are needed. They also said the legislation, if approved by lawmakers, would not mean the board would necessarily impose a meals tax. It would only give it the right to do so.
“It is simply allowing us to have the same options as towns and cities have,” Supervisor Kelly Burk (D-Leesburg) pointed out.
Ms. Burk would have you believe that the Board will go through this effort, explicitly designed to grant them the ability to levy a tax without asking for the citizens’ approval, but they won’t use it. Her assessment of the intelligence of Loudoun’s voters is clearly very low. And, for the record, this is precisely why Loudoun’s voters have continuously voted this approach down. We know full well that this BoS will come up with any and all manner of reasons to suddenly enact any tax they’re permitted to form. Burk makes ludicrously naive noises, but she’s fooling none of us when she implies that they’ll work hard to acquire an ability they’ll never use.
At least she’s making an attempt to sound non-threatening. Fellow Democrat Supervisor Sally Kurtz dispenses with that whole exercise and goes straight to “in-your-face” mode:
Supervisor Sally Kurtz (D-Catoctin) said if voters want a say in the meals tax, they can do so when the board is up for re-election in 2011. Until then, she said, “This county can certainly use diversification of its tax base.”
Do tell, Ms. Kurtz. Actually, the voters do have a say and that’s the law that has applied in 3 attempts to enact this tax. In all 3 cases, the law required a referendum to be put on the ballot to – ahem – give the voters a say. And we used those instances to say “no” in a very loud and very clear voice. Kurtz is giving a sneering, flip-of-the-proverbial-bird to the citizens of Loudoun, effectively telling us we’re not the boss of her. She and her fellows are going to run to the General Assembly and tell them they need to put we uppity voters back in our place: paying taxes and shutting the hell up.
Ms. Kurtz does not believe she works for Loudoun’s Citizens. Or, rather, she’ll allow us to think she does as long as it’s convenient for her. This is something that Catoctin’s citizens should remember quite well in 2011 when they are next given the chance to “have their say.” Perhaps Ms. Kurtz needs a time out.
Loudoun’s voters have been extremely clear about this issue and the Board needs to back off of trying to perform and end run around us. If they’ve got new data or new arguments that the meals tax is the way to go, then make them to us, not Richmond. And drop the attitude that our votes don’t matter.