Meals Tax Bills Defeated in State Legislature

Meals Tax Bills Defeated in State Legislature

State legislation that would have allowed officials to add a county-wide tax on food bought in local restaurants without voter approval has been killed thanks in part to lobbying by business officials.

Leesburg and other towns within the county already have meals taxes, which are collected in addition to the 6 percent sales tax. Leesburg, which has a restaurant tax rate of 3.5 percent, could have raised the levy to as high as 8 percent under one bill.

Loudoun County has tried several times to get voters to approve the tax without success, including by a margin of more than two to one in 2008. The Senate Committee on Finance voted down the bills by a 9-4 vote.

The meals tax is regressive and would have particularly hurt seniors and working-class people, Eric Johnson, government relations manager for the Loudoun Chamber, said in a statement. “Any legislation that would move to bypass the will of the people is concerning,” he said. “Clearly, the people do not want it. The chamber will fight against any proposal that would attempt an end run around the voters in this matter.”

Typical thin margins in the restaurant industry would be further pressured under such a tax, added Tony Howard, chamber president. “Attempts to increase costs on a patron’s check could cripple some restaurants and prevent others from ever attempting to open,” he said.

Advocates of the tax argue that many outside visitors would pay the levy on restaurant food and allow some leeway for the property tax to possibly be reduced.

The chamber is reviewing others bills, such as ones that would increase the minimum wage. One would allow tips received by an employee to be waived when determining wages paid by an employer.