Among Youngkin’s Vetoes is a Bill that Would Have Allowed Localities to Charge Additional Sales Tax to Support School Construction

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

by Adele Uphaus

Among the bills Gov. Glenn Youngkin has vetoed this session is one that would have permitted all localities in Virginia to charge 1% sales tax to fund public school construction projects.

Youngkin vetoed the legislation, which passed the General Assembly with bipartisan support, this week.

Virginia is a Dillon rule state, meaning local governments only have those powers that are specifically granted to them by the legislature.

Localities can adjust their property tax rates, but state law only allows nine localities—the counties of Charlotte, Gloucester, Halifax, Henry, Mecklenburg, Northampton, Patrick and Pittsylvania and the city of Danville —to impose an extra sales tax.

The new legislation—which was introduced in the state Senate by Jeremy McPike, who represents northern Stafford County—would have extended this authority to all localities. Voters in each locality would first have to approve implementation of the extra sales tax by referendum.

In his veto message, Youngkin said that while school construction is a “worthy cause,” the proposal “could result in a nearly $1.5 billion a year tax increase on Virginians.”

“Some localities would have a combined sales tax rate of eight percent, with no additional offsets, such as reduced income tax or property tax,” he wrote.

The bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 27-to-13, with five Republicans joining Democrats in supporting it.

Among the Republican Senators who voted against the legislation was Tara Durant, whose 27th district includes southern Stafford County.

A large portion of Stafford County is represented in the House of Delegates by Paul Milde, a Republican who also voted against the sales tax legislation.

Both Milde and Durant—along with McPike and Del. Joshua Cole, who represents southern Stafford—attended a legislative summit hosted by Stafford County Public Schools in December, where the sales tax legislation was one of the top priorities presented by School Board members and division staff.

The division has a documented need for new and expanded school buildings to accommodate its explosive growth, as well as for funding to maintain the aging infrastructure in its existing facilities.

Spotsylvania County also has similar needs.

At the December summit, Milde said he would fight for more money for Stafford County schools. “I mean that,” he said.

He also suggested at the time that he would support legislation allowing the extra sales tax.

In response to a question from the Advance this week about why he didn’t support the sales tax legislation, Milde said, “Effectively, Virginia already has a sales tax rate that rivals those of states that don’t have income taxes.”

“We have both [sales tax and income tax],” he said in an email. “The practice of ‘tacking on’ more increases to the sales tax—without any commensurate reduction in the income tax rate—places an added burden on our residents. Worse, the sales tax is among the most regressive taxes we have, falling disproportionately on those with fixed or low incomes.”

Durant did not respond this week to the same question from the Advance.

Managing Editor and Correspondent