The Meals Tax is Back on the Menu

On Tuesday, 5/22, County Supervisors directed County Executive Bryan Hill to study the pros and cons of imposing a tax of between 1 and 6 percent on food and beverages prepared in restaurants, grocery stores, and convenience stores. This comes on the heels of the Board’s approval of a real estate tax hike that will raise the average Fairfax County homeowner’s annual bill by $450 in 2025.

Pat Herrity, Springfield (R), the only Supervisor to vote against Supervisor Dalia Palchik’s (D-Providence) motion, explained his views in his newsletter, The Herrity Report, following the vote:

At Tuesday’s meeting, I was the only Board member to oppose a motion to consider a meals tax between 1 and 6 percent. The motion asked for information on “revenue diversification” with a specific look at a meals tax implementation to come back to the Board at a September Budget Committee meeting.

Residents of Fairfax County have already soundly rejected a meals tax in referendums in 1992 and 2016, with 58 percent and 56 percent opposed respectively. The Board should be listening to our residents. Due to significant public opposition from residents and local businesses, I opposed the proposed meals tax in 2016 and voted against the proposal Tuesday. Unfortunately, a change in state law in 2020 allows Fairfax County to enact a meals tax without a referendum.

I am against a meals tax because:

  • It is a single-industry tax that the restaurant industry does not support.
  • It disproportionately affects low-income residents.
  • The Board has a spending problem, not a revenue problem as demonstrated by how the County budget continues to grow significantly year after year.

My colleagues insulted the intelligence of our residents when they said that this motion is purely an “information item,” when the item will include consideration of an implementation strategy.

Only two weeks ago, the Board approved an increase in the average homeowners’ taxes of 6 percent. This is on top of a 56 percent increase over the last 10 years. At the same time, they refused to consider my proposal to take a deep dive into the entire County budget, bringing in outside budget experts to help identify future savings and efficiencies. While our County budget staff have exceptional expertise, they cannot make the same recommendations as an outside expert because staff are beholden to the Board’s interests. 

The Fairfax County Republican Party is closely monitoring recent developments as county lawmakers explore the potential implementation of a new meals tax. This proposal threatens to increase the cost of dining out and purchasing prepared foods, imposing yet another financial burden on our residents.

Supervisor Dalia Palchik (D-Providence) introduced the motion, which was approved by a 9-1 vote. Palchik claimed, “We cannot continue to rely so heavily on our real estate taxes.” However, residential tax revenue currently makes up 66 percent of the county’s general fund, a situation exacerbated by the decline in the commercial real estate market due to remote working trends.

Board Chairman Jeff McKay (D) tried to downplay the immediate impact, claiming, “Nowhere in here does it say the board is approving a meals tax. This is a request for information.” However, the push for this tax raises concerns about more government spending and higher costs for residents.

Newly elected supervisor Jimmy Bierman (D-Dranesville) supported the idea, noting that most neighboring jurisdictions, except Loudoun County, already have a meals tax. “They’ve got a meals tax in Herndon and plenty of people come from Sterling to Herndon to eat their food,” Bierman said, seemingly ignoring the adverse effects on local businesses and consumers.

The county’s financial challenges are significant, driven by high office vacancy rates, a pressing need for affordable housing, and increased demand for services. However, a meals tax is not the solution. Even Board Chairman McKay admitted that such a tax would fall short of covering the $568 million shortfall from state funding.

As discussions continue, the Fairfax County Republican Party will remain vigilant, advocating for fair and effective solutions that do not place additional burdens on our residents. We urge our community to stay informed and engaged to ensure that our voices are heard against unnecessary tax hikes.

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2024 U.S. Senate & Congressional Primary

GOP Primary Election Day is Tuesday, June 18

Election Calendar

  • Early voting opens 5/3
  • 5/28 – Deadline to register to vote (otherwise, same-day registration with provisional ballot)
  • 6/7 – Deadline to apply for an absentee ballot​
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