Howell Introduces Bill to Restore Hotel Tax Surcharge

by ARLnow.com January 9, 2013 at 3:55 pm 51 Comments

State Sen. Janet Howell at Arlington Democrats 2011 election victory partyState Sen. Janet Howell (D), who represents parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties, has introduced a bill to restore Arlington’s former 0.25 percent hotel tax surcharge.

The surcharge expired on Jan. 1, 2012 after Del. Tim Hugo (R), of Fairfax County, blocked a renewal bill in retaliation for Arlington’s lawsuit against high occupancy toll lanes on I-395. The Hotel General Managers’ Committee of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce has been calling for the Virginia General Assembly to reestablish the taxing authority, which brought in nearly $1 million per year to fund tourism promotion efforts.

A bill proposed by Howell today would allow Arlington County to reinstate the tax surcharge on hotel rooms, and extends the taxing authority in perpetuity. The bill has been referred to the state Senate’s Committee on Finance.

  • Wayne Kubicki

    As introduced by Sen. Howell, it has no sunset provision (as it did before). Interesting tactic – may not be a wise one, though.

  • Hollywood

    the Arlington Chamber of Commerce has been calling for the Virginia General Assembly to reestablish the taxing authority, which brought in nearly $1 million per year to fund tourism promotion efforts.

    As an Arlington taxpayer, I don’t see this is as necessary, no thank you.

    • Deadite

      This has nothing to do with income/property/sales tax. Unless you stay in a hotel in Arlington you won’t pay a cent of this tax.

    • jackson

      As an Arlington taxpayer (and thus presumably an Arlington resident) you won’t pay this tax unless you check in to a hotel here.

      So stay away from Days Inn on Columbia Pike!

    • drax

      You understand that this tax is paid by hotel visitors to Arlington, right?

      • ARL-VA

        He is refusing to understand. Or maybe he is looking out for the local “fellows” who frequent certain motels.

      • money is fungible

        I think he understands and you guys don’t. Money is fungible. Meaning a tax that is used to essentially subsidize a private hotel’s marketing budget raises the cost for visitors. Said increased costs, even if minimal, means less that visitor can spend in the area and could mean that person staying at a hotel in Fairfax, DC or Alexandria.

        And visitors doesn’t mean only business people but friends and family that might needs to stay at a hotel.

        • Deadite

          That’s all fine and dandy but does nothing to explain the “taxpayer” part of his comment. His taxes have nothing to do with this. Had he said “Arlington resident” that would have made a lot more sense in your argument.

  • BBMS

    Where is Arlington spending the proceeds from the normal, statewide 2% transient occupancy tax that they continue to collect?

    • Wayne Kubicki

      BBMS, I think the local TOT tax is 5%, and goes into the County’s General Fund.

      • DCBuff

        Since ArlCo has presumably continued to promote tourism without the surcharge, local taxpayers have likely been footing the bill one way or the other.

        • drax

          Arlington has been promoting tourism by $1 million less since this tax died. We don’t know if it’s enough without that. The Chamber of Commerce thinks it isn’t.

          • DCBuff

            Really? Are you certain tourism promotion spending has dropped by $1 mil? Where can one find this information? I ask only because it is not the ArlCo way to stop spending.

          • drax

            DCBuff, do you have a point to make? Or are you just acting like Deadite and trying to be right about something, even if it is meaningless?

          • DCBuff

            Drax, I made my point–Arlington County’s spending habits are generally unimpeded by something like a singular revenue source going away when other revenue is available. What I’m asking for–and which you usually don’t ever provide–are facts. If those facts show that your statement is accurate, then great.

          • Tim Hughes

            To reply to drax – it is my understanding that the hotel surcharge funded specific efforts and positions. This really was a business backed tax because it was specifically allocated to a specific purpose of promoting hotels and tourism. After it was not re-upped a couple years ago, AED cut all those efforts so that $1 million in fact is gone. The hotels really want this back too, so this is not just local government wanting another revenue source.

          • Deadite

            If the hotels want it so badly why don’t they just form and fund their own committee to promote tourism? Why wait around for the government to get off its butt?

          • Sam

            Gotta say, I really don’t cotton to the idea of our government officials being turned into lobbyists for an industry.

      • Dan

        So its “fungible” ??

        Do you know what does the county does to promote tourism ?

        • BBMS

          I’d like to see the work product that is generated to promote tourism here. Some ROI figures would be helpful too.

  • novasteve

    Addicted to taxes to fund their handouts.

    • drax

      Promoting tourism is a handout now?

      • Deadite

        It certainly could be. Just like any handout, it goes on the books as “tourism promotion” but could really just be a favor for a friend.

        I’m not saying this is 100% the case here, just saying that any government spending has the potential to be little more than a handout.

        • drax

          Stop it, Hollywood. You can’t just make up silly hypotheticals based on thin air.

        • drax

          Oops, that was Deadite. Sorry, Hollywood.

          • Deadite

            Well, don’t be a Pollyanna and assume there’s no way – just NO WAY – handouts can occur when a new tax is put in place.

          • drax

            Okay, I won’t assume that. I also won’t assume there’s no way that the money isn’t funding a secret project to bring aliens from some other galaxy to live secretly among us. You can never be sure.

          • Deadite

            The fact that you think grift doesn’t occur in our government is truly frightening. Remember that tiny park that is costing us ~$750K to renovate? Why do you think contracts like that get handed out?

          • drax

            “The fact that you think grift doesn’t occur in our government is truly frightening. ”

            I said no such thing.

          • drax

            Oh, and there you go again, making up claims of corruption with no evidence whatsoever.

            Claiming that people are stealing is a serious accusation. You should go say it to their faces.

          • Deadite

            ““The fact that you think grift doesn’t occur in our government is truly frightening. ”

            I said no such thing.”

            OK, then why did you jump all over me when I said handouts are possible with any tax-and-spend program?! By doing so you gave the implication that you don’t believe in things like patronage and no-bid contracts.

          • drax

            I jumped on you because there’s a difference between believing something sometimes happens and believing it happens all the time everywhere.

            You have no evidence whatsoever that there is corruption in this tourism promotion program. Corruption isn’t as easy as you seem to think. You can’t just conveniently make up wild ideas to fit whatever crazy idea someone comes up with. If you have any evidence or suspicion of corruption, by all means, go tell the authorities.

            The point, which you missed, was that Steve was making his usual silly “gub-mint handouts” comment, and I pointed out that tourism promotion is not a handout. So that’s that.

          • Deadite

            “I jumped on you because there’s a difference between believing something sometimes happens and believing it happens all the time everywhere.”

            Go back and read my very first comment and try to come up with another explanation for why you jumped all over me.

          • drax

            Um, okay, how about I jumped on you because you couldn’t come up with a rational response to my comment so you threw out a wild, lazy conspiracy theory. Better?

          • Deadite

            I cannot have a rational argument with one who believes that irresponsible government spending is some kind of a “wild, lazy conspiracy theory”. Open your eyes, man. That sh– happens every day.

          • drax

            Seriously, enough, Deadite.

            Yes, government corruption happens. Duh. Sure, it’s possible that this particular program is corrupt. But it’s silly to bring that up now. It’s not relevant. There’s no evidence that it is corrupt. It was just your lame excuse to back up a lame comment. It’s possible that it is corrupt, and it’s possible that it is being used to secretly bring aliens to Arlington too. So what?

  • deuceinyourdesk

    At loggerheads with the rest of the state – business as usual.

    • Road DIet

      Well, that’s a good thing!

  • JimPB

    The legislation I’d like to see is an amendment to the Commonwealth’s constitution that ended this kind of control of local matters by politicos from around the state.

    • novasteve

      The Dillon rule is the only thing stopping the left from having a total and complete nanny state in northern virginia, banning everything they don’t like, taxing things they hate, treating the population like little children because theyh know what’s best for you.

      • drax

        It’s sad that you think only liberals do that, steve.

        • novasteve

          I never said only liberals do it, but liberals do it a lot more, that impacts a lot more people, and m ost of the stuff conservatives historically ban are unenforceable other than in cases of rape. The left bans every day things, because they think they know what’s best for everyone else, thus their way or the highway. It impacts a lot more people.

          • drax

            “I never said only liberals do it”

            You NEVER EVER complain about conservatives doing it.

            “but liberals do it a lot more”


          • Rory

            “The left bans every day things”

            Like what?

          • novasteve

            Liberals do it a LOT more. They are the ones that CS Lewis quotation really refers to given their obsessiveness with banning things that impact people in their every day lives.

            “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” — C.S. Lewis

          • Captain_Obvious

            definitely a copy and paste here…

          • drax

            No, liberals do not do it alot more. You just notice it more because you’re extremely biased.

            And I’d say “omnipotent moral busybodies” perfectly sums up many right wingers.

      • Captain_Obvious

        Does it get old re-typing the same thing over and over, or do you have a document somewhere with all your thoughts that you just copy and paste from ?

        • Josh S

          See, this is why I sometimes suspect that “novasteve” is a government AI experiment.

          • Piker Shorts


  • SteamboatWillie

    Isn’t this another quotation from C.S. Lewis?

    “This was bad grammar of course, but that is how beavers talk when they are excited; I mean, in Narnia—in our world they usually don’t talk at all”


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