No sprawl tax

The great accomplishment of Loudoun’s developer-run Republican Party has been to get the public to pay for their profits while disguising the fact in a cloud of populist anti-tax and property “rights” rhetoric.

With about three-quarters of the county budget going to schools, it’s no surprise that new houses mean higher taxes. Which was why the local GOP poohbahs would become apoplectic if anyone dared to point out the connection between the two. It was a brilliant con, actually: take the profits and pass the bill to the public. As Loudoun’s population tripled in recent decades, so did the typical property tax bill to pay for all of the new schools (plus public safety, recreation, and roads).

The flip side of this game of hiding the huge but unspecified tax cost of developers’ profits is to scream bloody murder about the tax cost of any programs that actually help people as opposed to developers. Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio’s very admiring protege and robocaller par excellence Donny Ferguson has dreamed up all sorts of ominous-sounding “taxes” that he claims are the consequence of any proposals that might (a) limit the ability of property developers to maximize their profits or require them to shoulder any of the responsibility for their actions or (b) that might provide competing uses for public funds other than building new roads of no use to anyone but developers.

We never heard about how to pay for sprawl—we just paid through the nose—but now our supervisors are very very worried about how to pay the $11 million a year or so to bring Metro rail to Loudoun, with all kinds of hand-wringing about new special taxes that will have to be imposed.

Of course, they could just pay for it the same as they pay for everything else in the $1.8 billion county budget. We don’t have school taxes or sheriff’s department taxes or send-Scott-York-on-junkets-to-Germany taxes or uselessly-spray-pesticides-all-over-the-parks-and-let-“Ken”-Reid-bloviate-about-Lyme-Disease taxes.

In fact, “Ken” wants to spend $500 million, he tells us, on “missing links” in the road system, including such items as $35 million for a single interchange at the intersection of Edward’s Ferry Road and the Route 15 Bypass. The “missing links” are needless to say the north-south connections of use to developers—but not commuters. (Ken also brilliantly explained that he’s against Metro because more people will be driving in the future, therefore it won’t help relieve congestion according to his shrewd analysis.)

But roads—like sprawl itself—are always free in Loudoun GOPland. It’s only protecting the environment, funding public transit, supporting community and cultural organizations, providing alternative programs to keep drug addicts out of trouble and out of jail, or making land developers and businesses show a minimal responsibility for their community that we cannot possibly afford.

 

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