Fairfax County, Virginia, voters rejected a referendum Tuesday on whether to tax prepared foods and restaurant meals.
Results showed that 56 percent of voters rejected the measure. Forty-four percent of voters supported it.
The tax would have applied to restaurant meals and already-prepared foods at grocery stores, such as items from hot food buffets and salad bars. It would have excluded nonprofits and volunteer organizations that fundraise with food. It also would not have applied to groceries and food from vending machines.
The tax could have been up to 4 percent, but Fairfax County's Board of Supervisors had planned to hold public hearings to establish the rate and terms of the meal tax. Businesses would have been permitted to keep a small percentage of the tax.
The board introduced the referendum in an effort to reduce dependence on real estate taxes for revenue, the county said on its website. Officials said the meals tax could generate an additional $99 million per year, with 70 percent of it dedicated to funding for schools and the other 30 percent for county services, capital improvements and property tax relief.
Opponents had argued that the tax would disproportionately affect lower-income and middle-income families who rely on prepared meals. They also said the tax would negatively affect tourism.
Fairfax County residents rejected a similar referendum in 1992.
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Herndon, Falls Church, Vienna, Arlington, Alexandria and Washington, D.C., all have meals taxes. D.C.'s meal tax is the highest, at 10 percent.
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