Breaking News: Supreme Court Knocks Down HB 3202

Today the other shoe dropped.

The Virginia Supreme Court ruled today that the taxing authority given to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority — the financial fulcrum of the 2007 Act — was unconstitutional.  The reason is simple:  an unelected regional body does not have the power to impose taxes under our state constitution. 

The Court’s language speaks for itself:

“No bill which imposes a tax shall be passed except by an affirmative vote  of a majority of the members elected to each house, the name of each member being recorded in the Journal”

(quoting Article IV, Section 11)

“The constraints that the citizens of Virginia have placed upon the General Assembly regarding imposition of taxes would be meaningless if the General Assembly were permitted to avoid compliance with these constraints by delegating to NVTA the decisional authority whether to impose taxes.”

(page 21 of opinion).

In other words, you can’t avoid the constitutional rules on raising taxes by “passing the buck” to an unelected regional body, no matter how august the assemblage. 

I have read the Court’s opinion and am impressed by its grounding in the Constitution.  I was not here last year, and so did not vote for HB 3202.   Nevertheless, I’ve expressed my view on it many times, both on this website and in community debates.

It was especially pertinent in my 2007 race, since my opponent claimed that she “authored” the bill (HB 3202).  Without going into the merits of that fact, I am glad I never voted for it and never spoke in favor of it. 

We cannot have balkanized solutions for transportation.  We should not have “regional tax authorities” to raise taxes in one part of the state and not another.  A statewide solution is the remedy. 

What’s done is now done.  We will be moving on.  The State Senate is uniquely positioned to fill the void left by today’s opinion. 

Now is our opportunity. 

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