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Press Release


Lawsuit Challenges Recent Virginia Tax Hikes, Driver Penalties

For Immediate Release August 14, 2007
Pete Sepp, (703) 683-5700

(Alexandria, VA) -- A recent $1 billion tax hike for Virginia residents will be taken to the courts as 17 citizen activists have challenged the constitutional authority of the transportation package known as House Bill 3202 -- and among the plaintiffs are John Berthoud, President of the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU), and Kristina Rasmussen, NTU's Director of Government Affairs. NTU has several thousand members in Northern Virginia.

"Under Virginia law, it's clear that only directly-elected bodies may impose taxes. Yet the Transportation Authorities established by HB 3202 in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads fail to meet this key definition in every way," said Rasmussen. "If Virginia politicians want to enact tax hikes so badly, they should accept the political consequences up front, not abdicate their elected duty and hide as others tax and spend."

Other constitutional problems with the suspect tax and fee package include:

  • The Virginia Constitution prohibits the imposition of excessive fines, and some of the remedial traffic fees can reach $3,000. A few local judges have already lessened these fines, noting the tenuous constitutional footing.
  • Out-of-state drivers are exempt from paying the bad driver penalties. This poses a potential Equal Protection Clause question, as Virginia residents are the only ones subject to the fees.
  • HB 3202 authorizes $3 billion in new debt; yet under Commonwealth law, legislators must specify what the money will fund, and a majority of voters must authorize such borrowing. The legislation fails on both accounts.

"Although 170,000 Virginians have already voiced their public opposition to this new tax by signing a petition, I felt the need to act directly through the courts," Rasmussen added. "If the Governor and the General Assembly won't fulfill their obligation to stop this unconstitutional power grab, perhaps the legal system will," Rasmussen said. "Taxpayers have won similar victories in the courts by challenging the constitutionality of new taxes and fees, and the plaintiffs in this action are hopeful a judge will side with the rule of law, not the whims of an unaccountable bureaucracy."

In 2004, Virginia enacted one of the largest tax increases in Commonwealth history; then- Governor Mark Warner imposed a $400 million sales tax hike. Last year, freshman Governor Tim Kaine attempted to repeat his predecessor's assault on taxpayers and raise taxes by close to $800 million.

"General Assembly legislators are already starting to change their minds and withdraw their support for the latest round of tax and fee hikes," Rasmussen concluded. "Virginians need to keep pressing for transportation solutions that don't rely on more taxes or more fees. Unlike the damage caused by other drivers, reckless lawmaking isn't covered under collision insurance."

Note: NTU is a non-partisan citizen group founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, accountable government, and economic freedom. For further details, visit www.ntu.org.

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