Norment's Historic Triangle tax bill heads to governor's desk

A bill imposing a sales tax surcharge in the Historic Triangle while cutting localities’ hotel, meals and admissions taxes cleared the General Assembly Wednesday and is headed for Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk.

Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. “Tommy” Norment Jr.’s proposal sailed through the House of Delegates 63-34 — but without the support of either of the two House members who represent Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Del. Brenda Pogge, R-Norge, and Del. Mike Mullin, D-Newport News, both opposed the measure.

“It’s going to be paid by 160,000 residents every time they pass a cash register,” Pogge said.

She said the bill “removes accountability for elected officials in the city of Williamsburg,” where the city council’s vote to impose a new admissions tax and boost the meals and hotel tax rates sparked strong opposition from the region’s tourism enterprises.

“It asks for the state instead to levy an unpopular tax,” Pogge said.

Norment’s bill calls for a 1 percentage point surcharge to state sales taxes in Williamsburg, James City County and York County.

Half of the $25 million to $30 million a year to be generated by the tax would go for a marketing effort to promote the Historic Triangle as a tourism destination.

The rest would be divided among the city and the two counties for other public purposes.

But the tax surcharge is contingent on Williamsburg repealing the admissions tax and rolling back its meals and hotel tax increases. It also requires the city and James City and York to repeal a $2 hotel tax now used for tourism marketing.

If Williamsburg, James City and York officials don’t repeal those taxes, the sales tax increase won’t go into effect.

The bill previously passed the Senate 27-10. Norment and the other senator who represents parts of the Historic Triangle, Monty Mason, D-Williamsburg, voted for it.

Ress can be reached by telephone at 757-247-4535

Copyright © 2019, The Virginia Gazette