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Arlington Board Members Seek Removal of Shackles on Tourism-Tax Measure Print

BY:  Scott McCaffrey, Editor  Sun Gazette

CREATED:  November 13, 2017

Arlington officials are hoping 2018 will be the year the General Assembly takes the handcuffs off.

The County Board's draft 2018 legislative package seeks legislative reauthorization of the county's ability to impose a 0.25-percent surtax on hotel stays, to pay for tourism-promotion efforts. The tax brings in about $1 million a year.

After years of controversy and political wrangling, the General Assembly allowed the surtax to be resurrected in July 2016, but put a two-year "sunset" provision on the measure. Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th) and state Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd), who are likely to patron the measure next year, say they will start with the position that the sunset clause should be eliminated, and see what traction it has.

That may be a tightrope walk, as asking for a tax without the sunset potentially could endanger the measure entirely. As "special" legislation (because it applies just to one jurisdiction), Arlington's efforts will need to win a two-thirds majority in each house to get the bill to the incoming Gov. Northam's desk.

The Arlington Chamber of Commerce, which for decades supported imposition of a sunset clause, this time around is embracing the call for removal of the provision, which may help the county government's efforts.

The taxing authority (with three-year sunset provisions) had been in place since the early 1990s. But in 2011, lawmakers of both parties worked to strip the authority, having been outraged by a County Board lawsuit against state and federal officials over transportation, and allowed the taxing authority to lapse.