Arlington’s Hotel Tax Bill Fails in House of Delegates

by ARLnow.com February 23, 2011 at 3:59 pm 5,479 31 Comments

Arlington will have to find another way to fund its tourism promotion efforts.

A bill that would have renewed Arlington’s 0.25 percent hotel tax surcharge failed in the Virginia House of Delegates yesterday. The bill, which was approved by the state Senate, did not get the necessary two-thirds vote to pass.

An earlier House version of the bill failed to get out of committee after it was blocked by Del. Tim Hugo. The Fairfax County Republican cited Arlington’s lawsuit against high occupancy toll lanes on I-395 as his reason for blocking the bill.

We’re awaiting word from the county on how they plan to make up for the loss of nearly $1 million in revenue. Arlington funds its Convention and Visitors Service largely through the revenue generated by the surcharge, which will expire at the end of the year.

Update at 5:15 p.m. — “I’m disappointed that it failed to pass,” said Arlington’s Del. Bob Brink (D), on the phone from Richmond. “[The surcharge] is beneficial to Arlington’s business community as they try to compete against the District and Maryland for tourism and tourism dollars.”

  • Marc

    I guess this is what happens when our local government pisses off the rest of the Commonwealth.

  • Dbag

    We’re Arlington though, we are better than everyone else! (sarcasm)

  • Lalaland

    So much for local self-determination.

    In reality though I don’t know what was so offensive about this tax. It brought in revenue for the county and didn’t affect county residents. On top of that, it was a very low tax. For a very nice hotel, say $500/night, this translated to an additional $1.25, hardly a dent in the hotel bill. For cheaper motels this amounted to a few cents. I highly doubt people chose to take their business to DC in response to this tax.

    • jan

      Richmond’s pettiness is so short sighted. Seems to me that the more tourism Arlington generates is good for Virginia tourism.

  • Sgt. Hartman

    “Hipster” taxes.

  • Matt Wavro

    A great way to replace the funding is through an association for tourism promotion. Hotels could voluntarily fund this association with a 0.25 percent donation on all hotel bills.

  • Patrick

    I have a feeling this will not be the last time that richmond retaliates against arlington for the HOT lanes lawsuit. I sure hope Mr. Zimmerman is proud of himself for all the good will he has created in richmond.

    • Lalaland

      If that’s the case he should be proud that he’s not as childish as some lawmakers in Richmond who seek to exact their revenge. That’s not an effective way to govern.

      • Greg

        The HOT lane lawsuit was childish. That’s the problem.

        • BoredHouseWife

          No it wasn’t. It was an effective strategy to prevent such a horrible contract from coming to fruition.

    • Nevitt

      My view is [email protected]#@ Richmond. They could care less about Arlington or NoVA, and they didn’t need an excuse to retaliate, as it is quite frankly their standard operating procedure. We need more population so that we can out vote them.

      • DaveinSA

        You are kidding us. You want more folks in Arlington ? Why don’t you move to NYC. Say good bye to any parks.

  • Robert

    Time for Arlington to secede from the State. The state loves our revenue stream to the State’s coffers but gives us a big middle finger in return time and time again.

    • BoredHouseWife

      Shall we join DC? or Shall we be our own entity?

  • LPS4DL

    When they need Arlington’s support, they may find that the shoe is on the other foot.

  • MC

    This is clearly vengeful on the part of certain Republicans in Richmond. The action is petty and hurts the entire state, not just Arlington. As much as the County Board has failed to endear themselves, I don’t think any action they have taken deserves this kind of spite that hurts the whole state at a time the state is suffering financially.

    I have next to no respect for the entire government in Richmond – I can’t think of anything they are doing I support, much less am proud of. You would think we are living in the Philippines. Shame on our state government.

    • DaveinSA

      Chris Z and others threw the hand grenade and missed. What did you expect their targets to do ? This is the real world.

  • Wayne Kubicki

    This will undoubtedly generate an examination of the budget for the “Travel & Tourism Promotion Fund.”

    Proposed FY12 budget was $1.4M. $1M for personnel (10.8 full-time equivalent employees). $386K for other stuff.

    Funding sources were $1.1M from the tourism tax (now gone) and $247K from the General Fund.

    • Im sure their efforts were useless. Might as well fire them and avoid paying for their benefits.

  • LyonSteve

    Getting the ducks in order to raise our property taxes…

  • dave schutz

    One idea, which seems compatible with what we have seen, is that a lot of people who were irritated with Arlington but not feeling particularly empowered or urgent to do anything about it, have suddenly seen that they have many compatriots in Arlington-hating. If this is right, we will see a lot of actions aimed at tweaking us (or, at least, our County Board) over the next few years. Not fun for us, if that’s the way it works out.

    • BoredHouseWife

      They already started with that petition doohickey last summer/fall.

  • A good bill that has wide support from not only the political but business communities dies an ugly, thrashing death. Instead of guests to our area funding tourism, we are pushing tax burden in state and to business, or alternatively ditching a valuable resource.

    I know of good resources funded by this tax, including a great personal friend and tremendous asset at AED whose position is funded through this vehicle. When a business is begging for a specific tax, you can bank on it being a good idea.

    Sad day. I hope at some point some people are learning some lessons.

  • Bender

    Whenever someone objects to the direction that Arlington is moving in (down), there are always plenty of people to say, “if you don’t like it, move somewhere else.”

    Well, if you don’t like the way Virginia is, move somewhere else. Most of the people who want to change Arlington (for the worse) are not from here anyway — they’ve moved in from elsewhere wanting to change what others before them have made. So, in the same spirit of those who say if you don’t like the way Arlington is trending then move somewhere else, if you don’t like Virginia, move back to where you came from.

    • steve


    • spookiness

      Starting to sound like the DC provincials on POP and GGW

    • Chief Powhatan

      If you don’t like it, move back to Europe!

  • DT

    Remember when the Bored voted to give themselves the ability to raise taxes if they needed? Here’s their excuse.

    • Wayne Kubicki

      Lots of possible variations on the theme here.

      First, remember what this was – an incremental tax, imposed on guests by hotel operators, remitted to the County to promote tourism.

      Payer under this scheme – hotel customers.

      Beneficiaries – hotels (more potential business); County coffers (more tax revenues from increased business activity). I’d imagine someone will try to quantify the benefits from the tourism promo spending in the next several weeks – can’t wait to see that analysis.

      Now, the hotel customers aren’t going to be paying this $1.1M/year anymore.

      Which leaves the question – who, if anyone, should replace the lost revenue?

      Lots of possible answers – County taxpayers, through a tax rate hike; contributions from the various BIDs (which is where most of the hotels are); increased hotel occupancy tax (maybe – don’t know if Arlington is at its State statutory allowed maximum or not); some/all of the above.

      My bet would be that the program $$$ get whittled down some, and moved over to Arlington Economic Development (a General Fund dept). There are more than ample carryforward dollars from FY11 (the current fiscal year) to cover the incremental cost for a year or two, giving some time to sort this situation all out. I’d presume the tourist tax will be re-introduced in Richmond next year.

    • Lou

      It would be very hard to make the case that homeowners should be paying more out of pocket of fund the promotion of a niche industry that has very few tangible benefits to them.

      And Zimmerman himself said at one point that he did not think it was worth spending too much political capital on this issue with Richmond. They don’t seem to have very much of that now anyway.

  • Too Easy

    If Hugo wants to be a brat treat him like one. Use the Arlington car stickers as parking permits for Arlington streets, exempt out of state plates.Fat chance tourists from the rest of VA would stay in DC or MD if visiting the area so allow the hotels to sell the tourist a Arlington permit to display on their car. This would be a win -win-win , the hotels sell more stuff to be taxed and the county makes more $$ and Arlington gets more available parking spots for county residents.I could always peel my sticker off if Hugo tries this in FFX co.


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