A bill that would have given Virginia cities and counties the option to ask local voters to approve a sales tax surcharge to finance school construction has died in the General Assembly.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the bill would have broadened the special permission the legislature has already given eight counties and the city of Danville.
Democratic state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, who sponsored the bill, said Virginia currently operates under the Dillon rule, which says that local government only exercises powers expressly given to them by the state.
The resources state law currently allows localities to tap — mainly real estate taxes — are not synching up with the soaring cost of school construction, McClellan said.
“We say schools are a local responsibility, that’s what this bill does,” she said.
The bill said any sales tax surcharge could not exceed a 1 percentage point add-on to the state tax.
But Republican Del. Kathy Byron said a new school construction fund, along with increased sums flowing into the state lottery from sports betting taxes, should help localities pay for new schools.
“We need to give these time,” Byron said.
Byron said the General Assembly has been too easygoing about allowing local surcharges, which are increasing the tax burden on residents.
McClellan’s bill was killed by a House Finance Committee panel chaired by Byron on a straight party line vote.