Arlington County is keeping its eye on a bill that would allow certain localities — mostly in Northern Virginia — to impose a local income tax to fund transportation without voter approval.
"We're aware of it," Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada said. "We find it a very interesting concept. You never know how volatile it will get in the General Assembly."
The state Senate passed SB 1313 earlier this month and it was placed on the House calendar this week.
Under the proposed legislation, certain local governments would be allowed to establish an income tax of up to 1 percent without approval from voters — and for an indefinite period of time.
The bill would affect the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William, and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park, plus a few localities in southeast Virginia.
Current law states a jurisdiction’s residents must approve a local income tax in a referendum.
Tejada told Patch on Tuesday that it was "too early to say" whether Arlington County would consider implementing such a tax.
"We are always looking for more ways to fund transportation projects. We are No. 1 in gridlock. Something has to happen that is not happening now. So, transportation funding is critical in the Metro region," Tejada said.
"We do know the state time and again has passed the buck to localities."
Earlier this month, the DC metro area was ranked worst in the nation for traffic congestion by the Texas Transportation Institute.
Tejada pointed out that this measure was not included in the county's legislative agenda. Arlington did join with other localities along Interstate 95 and I-64 in asking for $3 billion in new revenue annually for transportation and transit.
Democratic Sens. Janet Howell, Adam Ebbin and Barbara Favola, who all represent Arlington in the Senate, voted in favor of the proposal when it passed in a 27-11 vote.
"Northern Virginia has been starved for transportation funding for too long, and I think that giving local government an option to raise funds is worth considering," Ebbin told Patch. "It's important for people to know that what we did was provide a tool, rather than mandate a tax increase."
Fairfax Sen. Chap Petersen, also a Democrat, has opposed the proposed law.
“This bill represents the worst possible deal for the Northern Virginia taxpayer,” Petersen said in a statement.
After Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell’s $3.1 billion transportation funding package failed to the pass the Senate, Petersen worried this legislation would be deemed the new fix to the state’s ongoing transportation problems.
This story was updated to include Ebbin's comment.