Dear Chairman Bulova,
I was deeply disturbed to read your October 3 email of support for the Fairfax County Meals Tax referendum. Most shocking was your praise for, as you call it, an “amazing editorial in support of the Meals tax which found the arguments being made against [it as] ‘mostly phony’.” These comments show a lack of judgment on your part and any other Board of Supervisor who supports this tax increase.
Let me share with you some of what you call “phony” arguments from a personal experience that was far from phony. Since my family could not afford to provide for my college expenses I had to take a full time summer job as a waiter. During the beginning of the third summer at this restaurant, the government instituted a 7% GST that impacted all restaurant sales. This tax was in addition to the 8% sales tax already in place. The results were dramatic and almost immediate: fewer customers, more empty tables, and less money in my pocket to pay my fall tuition. The customers that still chose to eat out, had less money to tip their servers. This situation is not PHONY! It was very real, and had a dramatic effect on my financial situation as well as my colleagues, including one cook who was subsequently laid off following the tax increase.
Real working people losing their jobs, and suffering from a loss of income is not a phony argument.
As a CPA by training, I decided a few months back to attend a Town Hall meeting with the County Executive to discuss the upcoming County budget. Copies of the budget were handed out, with the usual soliloquies of how The Board has squeezed all they can from the budget. In less than an hour I was able to identify millions of dollars in potential savings that wouldn’t impact the County’s BASIC mission. It’s all a matter of choices, and the Board of Supervisors has not shown the leadership to make the real cuts necessary. So saying that there is no more to cut is simply a straw man argument.
Perhaps the Board could initiate a public engagement period, supported by a website, which encourages residents to identify possible cuts in county programs that will reduce the budget, thereby eliminating the need for a tax hike. Another tax should be the absolute last resort
Another straw man argument is that Fairfax County residents won’t even notice the increase in their dining bills. This statement is absurd, and shows that whoever would make it is out of touch with the working families of this County. I and many other working families know exactly how much our restaurant bills are. In fact, this is the reason why my wife and I frequently eat in Tysons Corner, where the sales tax is 6% compared to Fairfax City, where the tax is 10%. Maybe people like yourself not knowing how much bills are is the reason why the County and the Country are in the current fiscal mess that we’re in.
Straw man argument number three: Other jurisdictions do it so why not Fairfax? Because other jurisdictions have a Meals Tax is not a valid reason for Fairfax to introduce one. In fact, not having a Meals Tax has the opportunity to bring hungry people from other jurisdictions to eat in our restaurants, thus providing more not less revenue to the County.
The Board was presented with an amendment by one of the Supervisors, stating that they would support the Meals Tax increase only if the rest of the Board would freeze real estate tax rates for the next three years. This amendment was soundly defeated by you and other Supervisors.
Why does the Board of Supervisors want to punish the hardworking restaurant workers in our County? Do you not care about the waitress who is a single mother trying to feed her children? This Meals Tax may be the difference between her ability to pay her bills or not.
Chairman Bulova, I urge you to take a stand and do the right thing, stop attacking our hardworking restaurant workers and say No to the Meals Tax Referendum.
Hugh Iwanicki, CPA