Recently, the Virginia Supreme Court struck down regional taxes to pay for transportation improvements, such as the perverse grantor’s tax on homeowners, based on the principle of no taxation without representation. Virginia lawmakers are now considering imposing new taxes to replace the invalidated taxes. They should keep two principles in mind. First, they should not revive the regional grantor’s tax, which was widely criticized as economically irrational and unreliable, unfair, and unduly burdensome. Second, if they levy any replacement taxes, they should use the revenue first to preserve the Metro subway system.
As Virginia Congressman Tom Davis noted in the Washington Post, while “Metro keeps hundreds of thousands of commuters from having to clog our already overburdened road system each day,” “Metro is teetering on the brink. It’s 32 years old, and many of the original components are beginning to break down.” Moreover, legislation is pending in Congress that would provide federal matching funds for Metro, provided that Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. enact laws earmarking at least a small fraction of their transportation revenue for Metro.