The VA supreme court deemed unconstitutional the new taxes being levied by the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance. This is a little awkward given that these taxes had already begun to be collected two months ago. Justice Goodwyn wrote the majority opinion:
“If payment of the regional taxes and fees is to be required by a general law, it is the prerogative of the General Assembly, as provided by Article IV, Section 1 of the Constitution, to make this decision,” said the opinion written by Justice S. Bernard Goodwyn. Gov. Tim Kaine (D) appointed Goodwyn to the Supreme Court.
“The General Assembly has failed to adhere to the mandates of accountability and transparency that the constitution requires,” wrote Goodwyn, “We conclude that the Constitution clearly contemplates that taxes must be imposed only by a majority of the elected representatives of a legislative body.”
I can’t say I’m too terribly surprised by this. It seemed a little suspicious to me from the get-go. Mainly because one could easily see the progression that let to the NVTA:
1) Northern Virginia needs more transportation money.
2) Virginia assembly members from outside Northern Virginia didn’t want more money coming back up here from the general fund in Richmond.
3) Neither did they want to raise taxes on the State level to fund it.
4) Northern Virginia still needs transportation money.
5) Local governments didn’t have the ability to pool their resources to raise money and keep the money in Northern Virginia for transportation.
6) So they got Richmond to create a pool for them.
But that didn’t make it constitutional. I’d have to say it is indeed a victory for the taxpayers of Northern Virginia. When we currently only get 20% back of every dollar we send to Richmond, it seemed to me not too much to ask to get a little more than that without having to form another tax levying entity.
It would have been more logical for the State to levy those taxes itself and regionalize the transportation fees. So that Northern Virginia districts would get the an even higher share of new transportation funds (because they need it), as they get a lower share of the education funds (even though they need it). I’m not sure of the numbers there, and perhaps someone could educate me. But a separate tax-levying entity didn’t pass the smell test for me from the start (see here and here).