The GMU Student Senate’s recent opposition to a Fairfax County meals tax, while laudable in its intentions, is misguided.
The Honorable Senators expressed concern regarding the impact of the meals tax on the poor without acknowledging its minimal magnitude (less than $1 per week on average for lower-income households) or its progressive nature (more than 95 percent of revenues would come from Fairfax County households with incomes above the national median and from commuters and other visitors).
The Honorable Senators failed to recognize that GMU students, if they purchase meals from the University, would be exempt. Nor did the Honorable Senators recognize that those students who venture into the City of Fairfax already pay a meals tax (4 percent) when dining there. The Fairfax County meals tax would merely help equalize dining out tax rates across local borders.
Finally, and most importantly, the Honorable Senators failed to appreciate that increases to investments in education produce significant returns in achievement, especially among students from lower-income households.
Seventy percent of the net revenues from the meals tax would go to Fairfax County Public Schools. Thus, for a small, discretionary investment, many lower-income households would reap great rewards in terms of increased access to opportunity.
My understanding is that the Honorable Senators did not take these important factors into consideration. If they had, I doubt they would have taken such a short-sighted position that could harm lower-income households more than the meals tax possibly could.
Jason V. Morgan