Henrico Meals Tax–Not Much of a Signal

Voters in Henrico County narrowly defeated a meals tax by 151 votes in an election yesterday that featured 14% turnout. All bond issues on the ballot for parks and schools passed. It’s difficult to glean much about the mood of voters from those results, except maybe that they couldn’t be bothered by an off-off election day that made no sense.

One Man’s Trash and the The Jaded JD have analyzed the vote. Both use the expression that the voters wanted to “have their cake and eat it, too.” The Jaded JD pursues this line vigorously while Norm at One Man’s Trash thinks the Henrico Board of Supervisors may have been bluffing in warning of large increases in real estate taxes if the meals tax did not pass.

I would have voted against the meals tax were I a Henrico voter, but I have mixed feelings. It’s interesting that one of the only type of retail sales that isn’t in competition with the internet is singled out for extra taxation. You can’t get your Red Lobster Shrimp Feast delivered by UPS from out-of-state.

If anyone has gone to a restaurant lately, you know the places are jam-packed. Granted, on the few occasions when I go out, I’m eating in meal tax-less Chesterfield County. Still–at six o’clock last Saturday the Olive Garden had over a one hour wait. The lobby was packed with people who obviously represented all income groups. I doubt if a few extra bucks on a check for a meals tax would depress those numbers.

But for the worker trying to grab a sandwich for lunch, the price on the menu bears no resemblance to the price rung up on a cash register in a meals tax jurisdiction. I think it’s at the lower end of the prepared food spectrum where the meals tax has a negative impact and is the most unfair.

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  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Meals doan’t pay tax, cars don’t pay tax, property doesn’t pay tax. In the final analysis, every tax is an income tax, or else it’s a double tax.

    Any attempt to find a “new revenue source” other than additional commerce is futile, and I wish the pol’s would stop lying to us about it.

    Ray Hyde
    Delaplane VA

  2. Where were you guys when Richmond City Council passed its ridiculous meals tax increase for the VaPAC ?

    How about a SUV tax? Those gas guzzlers are unsafe and damage our roads. They are not generally sold on the internet, either.

  3. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    I wasn’t in favor of the Richmond City VAPAC tax that went on top of an existing meals tax. Not being a city resident, I couldn’t vote, but I sure was impacted.

    My reaction? I bring my lunch these days, meaning I’m not dependably in line at the Subway every day, the way I used to be.

    As for an SUV tax, I have advocated changing the car tax relief formula. Because most SUVs are high value, they would pay more.

  4. Barnie Day Avatar
    Barnie Day

    I think Ray, of Delaplane, is right. It comes, macro, out of the same pocket. Simplified, government can be thought of as ‘spending X to get Y’ The fur flies because the beauty, the value of X and of Y is strictly in the eye of the beholder.

  5. John K. Avatar

    I have to eat, and I have to read Bacon’s Rebellion each and every day. I’m sure our legislators (or local administrators) will figure this out soon enough. How long before we find a blog tax?! 😉

    BTW, here in Arlington County, the local meals tax, I believe, is 4 percent in addition to the regular ol’ sales tax. Buon Appetito!

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    Right, and when will and I and a lot of other people bring our lunch commerce decreases and tax revenue goes down.

    Or else, we get a hot dog from the surreptitious street vendor.

    The rationale is that a meals tax is a way to capture revenue from the “outsiders”, but in the aggregate them is us. We wind up spending a lot of money ripping the fur off of one rabbit just to glue it back on another one.

    My brother tells the story of the time his dog came home with his neighbors favorite, prize winning, Angora, lop-eared rabbit.

    Horrified, my brother carefully sutured the rabbit, washed and blow-dried it and sneaked back up in the nigh to put the rabbit in its cage.

    The next mornig Neighbor showed up with the dead rabbit in hand and asked if Robin knew anything about it, to which he shook his head Nuh-huh.

    “Well it’s the darndest thing”, said Neighbor, “This rabbit died and I threw him in the garbage, this morning he’s back in the cage!”

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