City’s Proposed Legislative Agenda Asks for Tax Reform, Funding Increases

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City of Williamsburg logoThe 2015 Virginia General Assembly should focus on good government, transportation and state-local partnerships, according to the Williamsburg City Council.

At its meeting Thursday, Council members will discuss the draft of the 2015 legislative priorities, a list of issues the city believes should be addressed in the coming legislative session.

The 2015 draft includes eight issues spread among three categories: good government, transportation and state-local partnerships.

Under the good government category, the city highlights two issues: redistricting reform and tax policy reform. In August, City Council members approved a resolution supporting a nonpartisan redistricting process in the state to encourage more competitive elections by the next round of redistricting in 2021.

For tax reform, the city encourages state legislators to clarify how transient occupancy taxes and sales taxes are levied on hotel rooms. Transient occupancy taxes allow localities to apply a 2 percent to 5 percent tax on temporary lodging — including hotels, campgrounds and boarding houses — rented for less than 30 consecutive days. As the statutes are currently written, it is unclear whether that tax and sales tax applies to room reservations booked online.

City staff encourage the state to make the application of the taxes to online reservations explicit. Furthermore, city staff’s mmo encourages state legislators to make Business, Professional and Occupational License taxes revenue neutral.

The transportation category also includes two priorities. The city supports the widening of I-64 from Newport News to Richmond as a “top priority.” City leaders also come out in favor of the efforts of Virginians for High Speed Rail, which advocates for the expansion and improvement of rail service on the Peninsula. In particular, the city supports efforts to increase daily service to six trains and improve infrastructure to reduce travel times from Williamsburg to Washington to under three hours.

The state-local partnerships category contains the most issues, with four legislative priorities provided. Two of the issues—tourism promotion and financial impact on city government—call for greater financial investment from the state. For tourism, Williamsburg leaders want to see the state reinvest revenue collected from tourism into promoting statewide tourism in general, and for the Historic Triangle in particular. The city also lists six areas of state spending, including education, transportation and public safety, that need greater financial support from the state.

The two other issues address more specific concerns. The city supports allocating $50 million in the state’s fiscal year 2016 budget for the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund, which helps localities implement stormwater management plans.

Williamsburg also advocates for increased state funding for higher education and the College of William & Mary. The legislative priorities list state support for the William & Mary Promise, which standardizes in-state tuition rates for a student’s four years at the college, and funding the construction of an arts center as the college’s next major capital project.

The City Council will consider the legislative priorities draft at 4 p.m. Thursday in the Municipal Building. The meeting is open to the public.

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