Congratulation to our City Council. With the restaurant tax increase our council has achieved a new high in collective stupidity. They have never meet a tax they didn’t like and wouldn’t increase, no matter the negative impact. Once more they show they are all secret disciples of President William McKinley, who imposed the first excise taxes to pay for the Spanish American War. What has the restaurant industry done to be the target of such abuse and punishment? This goes on top of punitive parking meter changes.
James Melton’s April 26 letter is spot on. But there is more negative impact than possible job destruction, particularly entry level jobs. This is a backdoor tax increase on city residents.
We may under pay our first responders, but we will be number one in meal taxes, nice distinction. Councilman Bailey should understand this the best, as a Fairfax County fire official in a jurisdiction with no meal tax. Fairfax voted it down twice. Why can’t Alexandria vote on this increase? The council talks a good game about a business-friendly environment, tourism and job creation. But this tax works against all these initiatives. Way to go. It was smart not to have a Business Improvement District, instead we will just kill businesses.
This increase gives much insight into the lifestyles of our council. They probably never patronize a fast food location. If they go grocery shopping, clearly they never look at their receipts. That roast chicken, hot or cold food bar item or sub-sandwich, all are taxed at 10 percent, as if it were a restaurant meal. This is on top of our basic food taxes. According to the Federation of Tax Administrators, Virginia is only one of nine states that impose a state and/or local tax on food. These are particularly regressive taxes, particularly in a so-called progressive city.
The Washington Post coverage uses a 70 percent number concerning non-residents who would pay the tax. Where does this come from? Whose card data is used? What assumptions were made? Will this be published for the citizens to look at? It looks like Big Brother at work. Do taxes paid in cash, common for fast food, not count as taxes? Do grocery stores not count? What about neighborhood restaurants? Young families and seniors going to McDonalds need a break, not an increase.
Our restaurants are in a highly competitive environment. The fact that other Virginia jurisdictions have higher tax rates is highly irrelevant. They are not looking at the same level of competition. Just look across the Potomac at the MGM Grand. The Grand is in a jurisdiction with no food or restaurant tax. The same applies to Montgomery County in Maryland. DC has no food tax but does have a restaurant tax that also applies to carry out. There is new competition in Southwest DC. Looking across the James River in Richmond, is not the same as looking across the Potomac.
Our council can do a better job of thinking about taxes.
William Blumberg MBA