Anti-tax advocates seek legal recourse

A group of anti-tax advocates announced Friday it will file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads transportation sales tax referendums.

“In their haste to get this done … they made a number of procedural mistakes that really damage representational government,” said James Parmelee, spokesman for the Northern Virginia Coalition Against the Sales Tax, one of half dozen plaintiffs filing as private citizens.

The suit will be filed in Richmond Circuit Court on Monday against the Virginia State Board of Elections, which will direct the two regions to put the question on ballots.

The General Assembly this spring passed a bill seeking a referendum for Northern Virginia that, if passed by voters in November, will raise the sales tax half a penny to raise revenues for transportation projects. The proposal was pushed by House Republicans but defeated in the Senate. It was revived by Gov. Mark R. Warner who tacked it onto a transportation referendum bill for Hampton Roads later passed by both legislative houses.

“If we win, there will be no tax hike on the ballot this November, and the commonwealth will be saved from Governor Warner’s end run around our Constitution,” Parmelee said.

The lawsuit brief will not be released until Monday, he said. It will spell out how the referendas break constitutional rules for how the state can incur debt and how citizens can be taxed, he said.

“This is just a continuing debate that we had during the legislative session,” said Prince William Delegate John A. “Jack” Rollison III, R-52nd District, who led the legislative push for the referendum’s passage this year. “We’ve resolved the legislative matter and they want to take it to the judge — that’s fine.”

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, which goes into effect July 1, will be responsible for the debt — not the state.

Denny Daugherty, spokesman for the Prince William Taxpayers Alliance, said he is one of the plaintiffs in the suit.

Voters will not be given protections that should be provided for in a referendum, he said. Debt is being incurred and there will be no opportunity to vote on how much bonds are issued and on what projects, he said.

Referendum proponents said the 24 projects listed in the legislation show where the money will be spent. The $2.7 billion in bond amounts in the legislation do not cover the full costs of some items but can be supplemented by $2.3 billion in pay-as-you-go cash, proponents said.

Millions are proposed for projects affecting Prince William County, including widening interstates 95 and 66 and U.S. 1, adding railcars to Virginia Railway Express’ fleet, providing maintenance funding for Metro and allocating secondary road dollars for two-lane bottlenecks like Minnieville Road.

“But there’s no authority that is accountable to any particular jurisdiction,” Daugherty said. “There’s not enough in here to ensure the work will be done. It’s being held out as kind of a lure as part of this vote.”

Staff writer Chris Newman can be reached at (703) 878-8062.

Similar Posts