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Fairfax County Meals Tax Gaining Opposition, Support

by Karen Goff — April 18, 2016 at 10:00 am 18 Comments

Jackson's at RTCFairfax County Supervisors are taking another look at a county meals tax, so advocates on both sides of the issue are gearing up for a fight.

Several restaurant companies that have outposts in Reston have joined together to oppose the proposed 4-percent tax. At Clyde’s at Reston Town Center, for instance, there is a large sign in the restaurant’s lobby voicing Clyde’s Restaurant Group’s disapproval of the proposal.

Joining Clyde’s in the fight are Glory Days Grill Restaurants (North Point, Fox Mill and Great American Restaurants (Jackson’s).

“In a recent meeting, Fairfax County Supervisors went back to the well of bad ideas to bring back a rerun that almost nobody in Fairfax County wants to watch,” reps from the three companies wrote in a recent letter to the editor of The Fairfax Times.

“The ‘meals tax’ would levy up to a 4-percent tax for consumers to pay on all food and drinks purchased at restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, doughnut and coffee shops, and convenience stores across the county. It is taxation without justification at its worst.”

The restauranteurs say the meals tax is an unfair burden on residents who are also likely to see a 4-cent rise in real estate taxes next year.

In Reston, visitors to Reston Town Center resturants will also be paying to park starting in August.

Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins suggested last month that the supervisors look again at a meals tax. With the county feeling strain on its $3.99 billion Fiscal Year 2017 budget and the Fairfax County Public Schools facing a multimillion dollar shortfall, the supervisors are discussing putting a meals tax on the ballot this fall.

fairfaxmealsHudgins said a 4-percent meals tax, similar to rates in nearby jurisdictions such as Vienna, Fairfax City, Arlington County and Alexandria, would provide close to $90 million for Fairfax County in annual revenue.

“You can’t keep services up if you are always trying to juggle this one revenue source [real estate taxes] up and down,” said Hudgins. “You can’t rely on one revenue source and be sure it gets to where you want to be.”

The supervisors discussed a meals tax in 2014 but did not move forward. It was last on the ballot in 1992. It failed.

The supervisors will discuss on April 26 whether to move forward.

A grassroots group has recently launched to support the meals tax. “Fairfax Meals Tax Dine Out” has a Facebook page, and is encouraging residents to patronize restaurants that support a meals tax and leave a flyer outlining what a meals tax can do for residents.

Photos: Jackson’s at Reston Town Center, top; Flyer for Fairfax Meals Tax Dine Out, bottom

  • John Higgins

    I strongly support the proposal to put this to a vote. Many people are of the view that we are already taxed too much and/or government can spend less. Many will see a meals tax as a way to meet the rising cost of education (the lion’s share will go to FCPS) with a more predictable revenue stream.

    Whatever your view, this an opportunity to be heard on the question. It seems to me the only reason to oppose the referendum is the fear that your view is not shared by the majority. Let’s put it to a vote and then make your best pitch, for or against, in the run up to the ballot.

    • Lake Anne Fan

      Agree with the erstwhile Mr. Higgins. This is a worthwhile proposal and deserves a vote. This is a sensible way to go rather than raising the real estate taxes, this is a good way to raise needed revenue (which will be gotten somehow) and spread the burden among those who eat out a lot, and is a little bit progressive in that the Morton’s crowd pays more! Love Clyde’s but disagree with their selfish stance on this one.
      Support the meals tax!!

      • susie

        Oh those successful Morton’s folks – shame on them! They must be punished for their hard work and success so the “refugee” crowd can get their freebies!

      • Scott H

        This county spends $3.99 BILLION dollars. They do not need more money. They need to spend less. End.Of.Story.

        Quit it with the class warfare crap. You can blame the “morton’s crowd” but there is never enough money for the big govt crowd and there is no doubt that the Lake Anne crowd will be hit too. It happens EVERY time!

    • vdiv

      You know, if they bother to turn off the lights at the schools when no one is around, as in not illuminating the parking lots all night long, or bother to close the outside doors when the AC is blasting maybe they will find some extra money.

  • Reston Crimewatcher

    No more taxes. Period.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    Gotta love Hudgins logic. Why can’t you just live off of the RE tax? Is it because one large tax bill is whole lot less patable to the taxed than a bunch of smaller taxes, even if they add up to the same amount?

    You’ve got your meat hooks far enough into me, Fairfax County. You need to learn to live within your means.

  • cRAzy

    Hudgins’ comment is illogical. Probably the most stable revenue source in the County and one that almost always goes up at least a little is the real estate tax. Even an income tax, if we had one, would suffer in “bad times.” While the RE tax may go down in a major recession as property values shrink (they did in the Great Recession), so also will almost all the “voluntary taxes,” like a meals tax or a hotel tax, that you can simply avoid by not eating out or staying in a hotel.

    About the only “voluntary tax” that is stable is the sewer tax. At least I haven’t found out how to use the sewer less in a recession. Hmmmm, maybe I should just take all my sewage to that new septage tank in Lake Fairfax Park.

    • Chuck Morningwood

      I have found out how to use the sewer less. It’s called the neighbor’s kitchen garden. The think their tomatoes are red because of the Miracle Grow. I know otherwise.

    • Mike M

      Hudgins statement is also calculated false pretense. If the goal were to diversify the tax base, they could take the revenue gained via meals tax and deduct it from property taxes. The plan is to raise taxes. There are no plans to tighten up fiscally.

  • Why do you bother?

    This is one of the richest areas in the country. I completely agree with Mr. Higgins, below – let the people vote.

    • Mike M

      This is one of the most heavily taxed counties in the country. We need no more taxes. If they want to diversify, take it all off the top of the property tax. This is a tax increase hidden under a lie. By the way, the reason we are not the highest median income in the country is because we have a lot more low income people than Loudoun. Those folks would get hit by the tax too.

      I am with Scott H. Punish the Board for even proposing this. This is coming after immediately AFTER certain re-elections. They hope it’s history next time around.

  • RoadApples

    Curious question:
    On a $100.00 tab, I normally leave a 30% tip.
    If indeed the 4% meals tax is passed:
    Do I now only leave a voluntary 26% tip to the servers; with the other 4% as a forced tip to Fairfax County?

  • Scott H

    This is very simple.
    Fairfax county has the 2nd highest median income in the country (after Loudon county). Real estate prices, which drive the bulk of county revenue, are sky-high. FFX County does not have a revenue problem. The problem is spending $3.99 BILLION dollars.

    We do not have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem.

    Now that said, this is the Government FFX residents have voted for. This county has turned very BLUE. Quit electing electing big government politicians who think spending more money is the answer to every problem and maybe we won’t be complaining about them wanting more taxes every year.

    Quit complaining about the govt you voted for and vote for a different govt!

  • Bill2298

    Herndon has a meals tax and no one notices because it is so ridiculously minor.

    I’ll walk out of any restaurant that is actively lobbying against this tax and against diversification of the tax base. Why can’t the visitors chip in in this way? Easy.

    • George

      I will make a point of going to the restaurants which are fighting this tax.

    • Mike M

      I see your Democratic programming is operational. You are couching as tax increase as a diversification. Good student.

  • TruthInPlainSight

    A “grassroots group” was launched to support the tax. Really? What citizens would band together to tax themselves and their neighbors like this? Sounds fishy to me. I’d guess this group is being run by the Board of Supervisors or the School Board. At taxpayer expense, no less. How about you investigate that?

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