Northern Virginia Gets Some Authority
After a long public hearing that explored nearly every political division that has allowed traffic congestion to maintain a stranglehold on the Washington suburbs, the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority voted rather quickly to begin prying the region loose.
In about a half hour, the 14 voting members of the panel approved seven new taxes and fees that the authority will raise more than $300 million annually for road, transit and other transportation improvements. The closest vote was the first, to create a grantor's tax of 40 cents per $100 on the sale price of a property, payable by the seller of the property.
The vote was 11-3, but that wasn't the only crucial number. Contained within that ratio was the vote of 7-2 among the authority members who represent the Northern Virginia jurisdictions whose residents will pay the tax. Equally important was the figure 86.4. That was the percentage of Northern Virginia's population represented by the yes vote.
The tax and the six other taxes and fees had to pass all three of those tests, in a first indication of the complexity created by the General Assembly when it empowered the panel.
Del. Jeff Frederick, apparently on the panel to deny it any realistic method of improving transportation services, voted no on all seven taxes and fees. Scott York, chairman of the board in Loudoun County, where thousands of families must organize their lives around the time it takes to get to and from work, voted no on all but two. Bryan Polk, vice mayor of the City of Manassas Park, voted no on the grantor's tax.
Much of the debate on the grantor's tax, designed to raise $171 million annually, was about whether it was fair to tax the seller rather than the buyer.
After deciding that Northern Virginia should swallow these taxes and fees, the panel served the dessert: A list of $102 million in initial projects that passed unanimously. (Everyone likes dessert.)
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