My friend and Bearing Drift contributor Norm Leahy has penned an editorial for the Washington Post along with Paul Goldman in which they discuss the constitutional problems with the new Transportation Tax Increase.
Those praising the Virginia General Assembly’s transportation compromise may not realize that the bill runs afoul of the plain language in the state’s constitution.
Virginia’s constitution is clear that the General Assembly can impose only uniform taxes across the state for similar activities. But the bill that emerged from the House-Senate conference committee last weekend upsets the historic balance between localities and state government; it contains new provisions about taxation, some of which would effectively set up a two-tier system for residents in certain parts of the state. It’s difficult to see how some of these provisions could survive legal challenge.
There are four provisions at issue. The bill would raise Virginia’s sales tax on non-food items from 5.0 percent to 5.3 percent statewide.
But the bill also says that in areas of Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, merchants would be required to charge more, bringing the total tax to 6 percent. The revenue from this additional tax is to be spent on transportation projects in those areas.
Then there is the “regional congestion-relief fee,” applicable only in Northern Virginia, that is expected to add $750 to $1,000 to the cost of buying and selling a home in the region.
The fourth provision involves a 3?percent tax on hotel and motel bills in Northern Virginia.
Article X, Section 1 of Virginia’s constitution requires that all taxes “levied and collected under general laws” be “uniform upon the same class of subjects within the territorial limits of the authority levying the tax.” Article X, Section 4 includes the additional requirement that real estate is subject to “local taxation only” — not a levy imposed by the General Assembly in Richmond.
There is more and you can find it on the Washington Post site, but I would suggest that you read the rest on Bearing Drift to send them the traffic.