Taxes, fees for roads take effect

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Northern Virginians awoke bleary-eyed on Jan. 1 to the promise of a new year and the prospect of paying more to fix the region’s torturous traffic woes.

Though it still faces a legal challenge from Loudoun County, the Northern Virginia Tran

sportation Authority began collecting seven new regional taxes and fees to raise money for major road and transit projects throughout Northern Virginia.

Not everyone is keen on the idea.

This past summer, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors decided to challenge the constitutionality of the NVTA’s taxation power. The challenge is partly because NVTA’s 16 members were not selected by voters, supervisors said.

On Jan. 8, the state’s Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the county’s case, along with a suit filed by Del. Robert Marshall (R- Loudoun), who also is opposed to the NVTA taxes and fees. What’s more, Marshall is expected to introduce a constitutional amendment this winter in Richmond restricting which entities can impose taxes in Virginia.

As part of a massive transportation bill approved by the state’s General Assembly in April, the NVTA, created by the General Assembly in 2002, was given the authority to collect money on several fronts, including raising taxes on the sale of homes and increasing fees on car registrations and auto repairs.

When the NVTA voted to approve the seven taxes and fees in July, it was expected that the assortment of new revenue sources would generate $300 million annually for regional transportation fixes. About $100 million worth of projects is slated to begin immediately if the Supreme Court rules in the NVTA’s favor.

“This is something positive for Northern Virginia,” said NVTA’s Chair Chris Zimmerman, a member of the Arlington County Board of Supervisors. “This is our chance to stop complaining about traffic, and our first opportunity to fund transportation projects in years.”

Despite a dreary housing market, the biggest chunk of the NVTA money is expected to come from a five-fold increase in the grantor’s tax, which home sellers pay at the closing table.

On Jan. 1, this tax rose from 10 cents per $100 of a home’s sale price to 50 cents per $100, meaning a home seller will now pay $3,000 in grantor’s fees on the sale of a $600,000 home.

Of those opposed to the grantor’s hike is the Dulles Area Association of Realtors, which has set up an online poll asking for its repeal.

“It’s pretty sad when home sellers are underwater and now they have to pay this new tax,” said Christine Windle, the group’s public policy director. Besides, she added, “since the market is down, it’s not going to be the revenue source they originally thought.”

NVTA officials said any money collected from the seven taxes and fees would be returned to residents if the Supreme Court rules in Loudoun’s favor.

To learn more, visit www.thenovaauthority.org.

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