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InsideNOVA: Arlington tourism-tax bill takes another step forward in Richmond Print

BY: SCOTT MCCAFFREY

CREATED: FEBRUARY 26, 2018

Arlington leaders appear likely to get half a loaf in their efforts to retain taxing authority that pays for tourism promotion.

The House of Delegates’ Committee on Finance on Feb. 26 voted 14-4 on a measure allowing the county government to retain its ability to levy a 0.25-percent surtax on hotel stays. The resulting $1.2 million per year helps fund promotion efforts of Arlington Economic Development.

The measure is patroned by state Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd), and won a comfortable 30-8 passage in the state Senate before being sent to the House committee. It now goes to the House floor.

Arlington’s business and hospitality community backed the measure, which helps fund outreach to growing international markets and the ability of county staff to participate in trade shows.

“We understand how vital these funds are,” said Chris Raines, general manager of the Holiday Inn Rosslyn Key Bridge, who represented the Arlington Chamber of Commerce at the committee hearing.

A number of Arlington community and business leaders turned up for the Monday-morning hearing, a trek that drew praise from Finance Committee Chairman R. Lee Ware (R-Powhatan).

“We very much appreciate those of you who have made the effort to come down,” he said.

In her remarks, Howell noted that Arlington’s hospitality industry brings the state government an estimated $117 million in tax revenue per year.

“That’s real money,” Ware noted.

The House committee agreed to the Howell bill on one condition: That Arlington be required to come back in three years to seek permission for extending the taxing authority. Howell’s bill would have allowed the taxing authority to run forever.

At the committee hearing, Howell politely, albeit a tad grudgingly, agreed to the limitation. “It’s imperative that this bill gets through, so if it requires a three-year sunset . . . I’ll accept it,” she said.

Del. Timothy Hugo (R-Fairfax), who made the proposal to add the sunset provision, praised Howell for her efforts on behalf of the legislation.

  

“Sen. Howell has been an incredible advocate on this bill. She’s worked tirelessly,” Hugo said.

The General Assembly in 2011 rescinded Arlington’s power to impose the tax. In 2016, it was revived, but with a two-year sunset provision attached. If the measure falters on its way to the governor’s desk, Arlington’s ability to levy the tax will run out on July 1.

The Arlington Chamber of Commerce, which has long supported the taxing authority as a way to promote the county to tourists and business travelers, previously had supported a sunset provision, but this year backed the bills without one.

A companion to Howell’s measure, which had been patroned by Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th), never got a hearing in the Finance Committee, dying earlier in the session.

The tourism tax had been in effect for 21 years until 2011, when it was stripped away by legislators of both parties angered by the Arlington County Board’s lawsuit against the state and federal governments over high-occupancy-toll lanes on Interstates 95 and 395.

The legislature agreed to restore the funding stream in 2013, but the measure was vetoed by departing Gov. Robert McDonnell. The 2016 legislation was signed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

 


 



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