Reject the Meals Tax

Reject the Meals Tax

“A closer look at school spending shows the intentions of the School Board are to delve into more political correctness and social engineering.”

— On Nov. 8, Fairfax County voters have an opportunity to cast a powerful vote for themselves, and for better government by voting “no” on the proposed Meals Tax. A “no” vote will send a message to the county Board of Supervisors that higher taxes should not be routine, and that county leaders must focus on better management, and more importantly, the School Board, more efficiency, and greater respect for taxpayers.

The ballot language for the meals tax referendum was carefully worded to avoid guarantees for how the money will be spent, while pro-tax forces want voters to believe it will be used for teacher pay raises and property tax relief.

In fact, there are no guarantees for this at all. To remedy this glaring political error, a public relations campaign has been launched, partially at taxpayer expense, by teacher unions and some on the county board, to try to convince voters that the board’s intentions are to use the new revenue for teacher pay hikes even though no such requirement exists.

Voters shouldn’t buy the argument, and they shouldn’t approve the new tax.

A closer look at school spending shows that the intentions of the School Board are to delve into more political correctness and social engineering. One example, is their recent release of an RFP to identify a community convener to “study” and bring about the name change of Jeb Stuart High School, despite the fact that the Stuart-area population and students oppose the change.

There are a number of problems with a new tax on prepared foods and meals, but most troubling is the very regressive nature of this proposed new tax. The tax would be imposed on all meals at restaurants and carry-out, in addition to prepared food sold at convenience stores, food trucks, etc. — meals that are necessities, not luxuries, for many working men and women, and busy families. The new tax would also be levied on all ready-to- eat foods including a long list of items such as deli foods and grocery store rotisserie chickens.

While there are many other problems with the proposed tax, it’s also troubling because it confirms an unhealthy focus by county leaders on higher taxes and more revenue as opposed to better management.

Earlier this year, county leaders passed a $100 million increase in property taxes — also presumably to fund education. Now, they’re back in front of voters asking for another $100 million in the form of the Meals Tax.

Easy money makes for bad management. In 1992, as board chair, I supported a meals tax. The county budget was in terrible shape coming off a real estate depression that saw our commercial tax base collapse. Voters rejected the tax, we took the opportunity to reorganize our budget from top to bottom and two years later were named the Best Financially Managed County in America. The budget problems today are nothing of that magnitude. And with no guarantees as to how the money will be spent, plus the current School Board’s spending proclivities. I am voting no.

It’s important that voters reject this, join me in voting “no” on the Meals Tax.

Tom Davis is former U.S. representative and past chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.