The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
Straight from the “headlines you never thought you would read” category, at a recent forum for Northern Virginia elected leaders, Stewart and Cristol agreed that more money was needed for roads. But, they did not exactly see eye-to-eye on what to do about it.
Cristol supported another round of tax increases to pay for it, backing a plan that failed to get through the General Assembly. It would increase the tax on the sale of a home, about $250 in taxes for a $500,000 house and increase taxes on hotel rooms.
Stewart reminded everyone that new tax dollars were already earmarked for roads, but were diverted to transit as part of the recent Metro funding deal. He would not commit to supporting another new tax increase to pay for it this time around.
There is another option.
As a result of the new federal tax law, Virginia is projected to run a revenue surplus of $500 million a year until 2024. There is a push underway to return at least some of this money to the taxpayers. Gov. Ralph Northam wants to focus on a refundable tax credit. Republicans want to focus on conforming the Virginia code to the structure of the new federal tax law, ensuring middle class taxpayers in Virginia fully benefit from the new tax code.
The General Assembly could also set aside a portion of surplus funds available after any tax reform to go toward road projects. It is a little surprising Cristol is not actively championing this idea since we know the Arlington County Board generally uses most, if not all, of our surplus tax revenue to pay for new spending projects. Then again, the idea of new sources of tax revenue may have been too difficult for Cristol to pass up.
In other news, oddsmakers now favor Washington, D.C. or Northern Virginia as the top two likely destinations for Amazon HQ2. If it lands in Arlington, expect real estate values to make a significant jump and provide a substantial tax revenue boost to the county. But how much will Arlington send back out the door as part of the incentive package necessary to land the online giant? And would there be enough left over for us to see a cut in our tax rate?