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Washington Post: Arlington allowed to raise tax on hotel users after years of tension with legislators Print

BY:  PATRICIA SULLIVAN

Created:  Wednesday, March 2, 2016 5:12 PM

 

Five years after it lost a bruising battle with the Virginia General Assembly, Arlington County will again be allowed to levy a small additional tax on hotel visits, generating money for travel-and-tourism promotion.

The 0.25 percent tax on hotel rooms will bring in about $1.25 million in the coming fiscal year, county Budget Director Richard Stephenson said Wednesday, on top of an existing 5 percent tax on hotel visits.

The extra tax was first levied in 1990 but expired in 2011, said Del. Patrick A. Hope (D-Arlington), who sponsored this year’s bill in the House of Delegates. The General Assembly refused to reinstate the tax because of a lawsuit Arlington had filed against the commonwealth over its plan to build high-
occupancy toll lanes on Interstate 395.

In addition to costing Arlington revenue, the standoff seriously damaged the relationship between the state’s most liberal county and its more conservative legislature.

The Arlington County Board chair, Libby Garvey (D), on Wednesday lauded the passage of the legislation, calling the additional tax a “vital tool” in the county’s efforts to attract more visitors.

Garvey and Hope noted that the bill passed with larger-than-
needed majorities, and credited the local business community and County Board member John Vihstadt (I) with lobbying Republican leaders and lawmakers to let bygones be bygones.

“Richmond lawmakers understand and appreciate that Arlington is under new management,” said Vihstadt, referring to recent turnover on the County Board. “We want to work together to help our tourist economy thrive.”

Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax), who sponsored the bill in the Senate for the past four years, said: “The time for vendetta is over. The people they’re angry with have almost all been replaced.”

According to a 2015 study by the Virginia Tourism Corporation, visitors staying in Arlington generated $80.75 million in local tax receipts and $107.8 million in state taxes in 2014. Tourism accounts for about 25,000 jobs in Arlington, the local convention and visitors bureau said, and the reinstatement of the transient occupancy tax was the county’s top priority.

The bill, which has yet to be signed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), allows the tax to be levied for two years. Hope said he has “every reason to believe” it will be extended again in the future.


 



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