Meal tax possibly coming to Fairfax County

A meal tax in Fairfax County might be back on the table this election year. Some lawmakers are considering a 4 percent tax at restaurants with the revenue going toward transportation projects.

Bangkok Golden is a Thai restaurant in Fairfax that has been in business for nearly a decade.

"It's the food, absolutely it's the food," said restaurant manager Onratchada Lopez.

But Lopez says things could get a bit complicated if the County moves forward with the tax. It could require number-crunching which might not work in the restaurant's favor.

"If we increase the price of food and we lost a lot of customers, we might have to take a loss," Lopez said.

At a recent Board of Supervisors Retreat and Transportation committee hearing, Fairfax County officials weighed in on a new meals tax that would generate about $80 million for transportation improvements.

"When you look at the billions of dollars that we're behind and the State does not have the money to provide us to do what needs to be done, I don't think we have any other choice than to look at other ways of raising funds," said Gerry Hyland, a Fairfax County Supervisor in the Mount Vernon District. "I think this is a fair way of raising money from our taxpayers."

In 1992, this issue was a ballot referendum, but it did not go through. In 2010, it was brought up again by Hyland. Hyland is behind the proposal once more.

"The last thing we want to do is turn to the real estate tax and raise it any more than it is," Hyland said.

Some things must play out first before the next step. It would either need approval from the General Assembly or input from voters on election day, which officials say is more likely out of the two. That's only if the Board doesn't shoot it down.

Fairfax residents are already giving their two cents.

"I think that's kind of outrageous," said Amy Kim, a Fairfax resident.

"For folks sitting on the fence at home debating whether to go out to eat or not, I think it's going to be a deciding factor," said Katherine Long.

"It would probably influence me to cut back a little bit, keep going to the grocery store more than the Panera," said Patrick Runyon.

The tax would apply to everything from fine-dining to fast-food, but before that happens, the Board will decide next month whether the measure will go to referendum in the fall.

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