- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 9, 2000

In Richmond, the General Assembly is considering a plan that would allow Northern Virginia authorities to impose a permanent local income tax of up to 1 percent ostensibly to finance new road projects that have been given short-shrift by state authorities. The Virginia House and Senate have approved the measure in principle. Thankfully, Gov. James S. Gilmore has made it clear he will veto this egregious cash-grab.
The Senate's version of the proposed income tax bill is especially bad because it would allow the tax to be used to finance things other than new road construction. Only a fool could believe for a moment that such a tax would not quickly grow well-beyond 1 percent and be used to finance a cornucopia of wish-list projects. It would be next to impossible to get rid of. A new gusher of revenue is quite addictive to lawmakers, who always find a new cause or project that "desperately needs" to be funded.
The House version, at least, has the merit of specifying that any taxes collected be used solely to ease gridlock by building new roads or improving/maintaining existing ones. Still, a tax is a tax is a tax and there's simply no justification for yet another one at a time of record high levels of taxation by state and federal authorities.
Luckily, in addition to Mr. Gilmore's veto, there are other obstacles in the way of any new income tax law. Virginia localities would have to hold referendums and submit any proposed tax to voters for an up-or-down vote. It is highly unlikely that already overtaxed Northern Virginians will accept yet another layer of taxation that could add hundreds of dollars to their annual tax bill. Estimates of the revenue range in the neighborhood of $400 to $500 million not an insignificant sum and one better left in the pockets of those who earned it.
As this page has argued on previous occasions, at least part of the solution to area transportation woes lies in so-called "congestion pricing" or toll roads that apply market forces to heretofore "free" roads that cost plenty in wasted time and needless aggravation. Other sensible options include the telecommuter tax credit idea floated by Virginia Rep. Tom Davis that would encourage more people to work from home, thereby taking some more cars off the roads. These are all smarter and longer-term solutions to foisting yet another tax on Northern Virginians. More often than not, the solution to any problem is not simply to throw more tax dollars at it. Mr. Gilmore, at least, understands this. Too bad more members of the General Assembly do not.

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