Several Bills Introduced to Enhance County Taxing Authority

January 15, 2019

SB 1127 (Favola), introduced at VACo’s request, would provide counties with the same taxing authority currently granted to cities and towns, effective July 1, 2020.  In the intervening time, the Division of Legislative Services would be directed to convene a stakeholder group to recommend any additional statutory changes that would be necessary; this provision is intended to ensure that no existing special taxing authority is accidentally overridden.  This bill has been referred to the Senate Local Government Committee.  The companion measure, HB 2189 (Kilgore), has been referred to the House Counties, Cities, and Towns Committee.  VACo is grateful to Senator Barbara Favola and Delegate Terry Kilgore for carrying this legislation.

SB 1512 (Carrico) and HB 1946 (Campbell, J.L.) are two bills that would allow additional authority for counties to levy cigarette taxes, though they differ in the requirements for levying the tax and the proposed use of the revenues generated.  SB 1512 permits counties to impose a cigarette tax at a rate of 5 cents per pack or the amount levied under state law (currently 30 cents per pack), pursuant to approval in a local referendum.  Like last year, VACo supports this bill as a step towards parity with city and town taxing authority.  HB 1946 allows all counties to impose a cigarette tax at 5 cents per pack or the amount levied under state law without the requirement for a referendum, but would require the revenues raised to be used for school capital projects, and bar counties from using the cigarette tax revenues to supplant existing funds that would otherwise have been used for school construction.  (Neither bill affects the existing authority exercised by Arlington and Fairfax Counties.)  SB 1512 has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee and is expected to be heard on Wednesday, January 16.  HB 1946 has been referred to the House Finance Committee.

HB 1634 (Edmunds) allows counties and cities to impose an additional local option sales and use tax by ordinance, after approval in a local referendum.  The additional revenues would be required to be used for school construction or improvement projects.  VACo supports this legislation as an additional tool for localities to fund school capital projects.  The bill has been referred to the House Finance Committee and was scheduled to be heard on January 14 but was deferred to a later meeting.

HB 2084 (Watts) would grant counties with populations greater than 100,000 the “uniform charter” powers currently exercised by cities and towns, which would include broad taxing and borrowing authority; equalize those counties’ ability to levy meals, cigarette, admissions, and transient occupancy taxes; and allow them to qualify for road maintenance payments currently made to cities and larger towns.  The bill provides that roads currently maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) would continue to be maintained by the VDOT until they were brought up to a satisfactory standard before the county would receive funds to take over road maintenance.  This bill has been referred to the House Counties, Cities, and Towns Committee.

VACo Contact:  Katie Boyle

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