Want fries with that? Yes? How about a tax on that meal? No? Hmmm...
Some officials in Fairfax and Loudoun counties want to add a tax on restaurant meals in order to avoid drastic cuts to services.
Supporters of the meal tax say people would be willing to pay more when dining out to avoid further cuts to schools, libraries and parks. They point to the fact that nearby jurisdictions including Arlington County, Alexandria and Falls Church have a meals tax.
But those against a meals tax, like The Cato Institute (of course), say the government should trim its own fat first.
If the supervisors are so sure that a tax increase would be popular, why don’t they put it to a referendum?
Or better yet, why not make it voluntary? The waitress could bring you a bill that shows the cost of the food and drink, the state tax, the county tax (as Virginia receipts already do), and then “additional voluntary local tax to keep Fairfax government big.” If the supervisors are right, people will gladly pay it.
In 1992, a proposed meals tax failed in a Fairfax County referendum by 58 to 42 percent. At the time, the Washington Post summed up the referendum defeat like this:
Voters believe government is still bloated and they would rather get fewer services than pay higher taxes.
"What they've said is, `Tighten and make do with less,' " said Board of Supervisors Chairman Thomas M. Davis III, the Republican who proposed the tax. "We've got some very difficult choices ahead."
This time, however, supporters say the budget picture is so grim that voters might be more willing than in the past to support a meals tax.