I believe, the 1 percent sales tax increase in SB 942 to promote area tourism does not affect the state’s 4.15 percent motor vehicle sales and use tax. The 4.15 percent rate is applied uniformly throughout the state and is not part of the retail sales tax law.
Nor does it appear to affect the sales tax on grocery store food items.
But there are some very troubling aspects of the new law. James City County, York County and Williamsburg each have one member on the tourism council. They may or may not be anyone you have ever voted for, can vote for or represent the district you are in. The remaining members are from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Historic Jamestowne, the Williamsburg Hotel Motel Association and the Williamsburg Area Restaurant Association. I have a definite problem with nonelected people controlling the flow of the tax increase money, as well as elected officials that I cannot personally influence through the ballot box.
Busch Gardens is owned by an out-of-state corporation with deep pockets. Their profits are largely shipped out of state. Many of the hotels and motels are also owned by corporations. Everyone is familiar with Colonial Williamsburg and has questioned giving them any more money. They already get support at taxpayer expense. Why are we throwing money down this rabbit hole?
The icing on the cake is neither the special transportation nor tourism district taxes have any expiration date, and only half of the tourism tax goes directly to the tourism council. The other half goes to the localities to spend as they wish.
We are going to be stuck with these taxes forever unless the Gov. Northam vetoes the bill. I would encourage those opposing the bill to write the governor; there is a contact form on his website. I would also encourage voters to tell their elected officials that these taxes must be repealed and to not give an inch to any more requests for bailouts and giveaways. In real life, if a business is not viable, it goes out of business. I am OK with that.