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Video: Gov. Northam Leaning Towards Veto of Arlington Golf Course Bill — or Not.

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This morning on WTOP “Ask the Governor” show, Gov. Ralph Northam was asked about the Arlington golf courses/country clubs taxation issue (the bill is Tim Hugo’s HB1204). Northam’s confusing answer was as follows (my comments in parentheses after each point): 1) he believes that tax assessments on the golf courses are “high” (that’s highly debatable); 2) “I don’t think the state needs to get involved at the local level” (agreed in this case, and in general I think Dillon Rule in this state is far too rigid and draconian compared to other states); 3) “Arlington leadership should deal with these golf courses and I have asked them to do just that” (yeah, that’s lovely, but what happens if the golf courses don’t want to make a fair deal and simply decide to keep pushing for state intervention on their behalf?); 4) “I have a lot of concerns when the state gets involved at the local level and I think this is a case of that” (agreed); 5) wouldn’t say directly if he’s “leaning towards a veto”; 6) he’s concerned about members who are veterans with “limited resources” unable to afford the membership fees at the golf courses (perfectly fair point, but not sure how that’s relevant to the tax/assessment issue); 7) he says it might very well be an “all-or-none thing,” so “if the local leadership is unable to resolve this, I will have to take action” (no idea what that means, but it seems to potentially contradict his earlier points about letting local officials work this out).

  • James McCarthy

    Oh, Geez, Northam is spewing word salad. Any worry about the veterans being able to afford the membership fees is a red herring since the fees are so high. The club is not a charity although it benefits from IRS charitable rules. What he thinks are fees that are too high is measured by no evidence. Playing gold or tennis at the Army Navy CC is not, I’m sure, an activity sought by most members of the military and veterans given the size of our services. My bet is that participation at the club is largely by the officer class.

    If Northam prefers that the state not get involved at the local level, then he should sponsor legislation to modify the unwritten Dillon rule to define some scope of authority between the state and localities. As it is, the Dillon rule, in this case, was used as a weapon and forces the General Assembly to micro-manage the affairs of local government which accounts for a portion of the mountain of bills in the GA that eats up their time.

    • Yeah, Northam doesn’t seem to fully understand what’s going on here…

      • James McCarthy

        Don’t be so easy on him. It’s the front end of his admin with full political capital and he’s waffling on the issue? Maybe Thugo has some leverage here. Fairfax judgeships? Medicaid vote?

      • Rainier Wolfcastle

        Sure he does.

    • Arlington County taxes Army-Navy and Washington Golf 7 times what other local golf courses are taxed. Why? Because Arlington County says the land is “residential” not “open space”. ANCC has been used as open space since 1924, almost ~100 years. No one lives on the property. Arlington County needs to tax fairly, ANCC and Washington Golf are not Golden Geese to be plucked for maximum revenues.

      • James McCarthy

        ANCC is already subsidized by all US taxpayers because it is a Not for Profit under IRS rules. In addition, as a NFP it enjoys a similar benefit in Virginia including exemption from sales and excise taxes all of which accrue to its 7200 members versus 220,000 Arlington residents. This latter group must absorb the $1.5 Million revenue loss if the Governor signs the bill.

        In a recent filing, ANCC enjoyed a profit of $840,000 untaxed and reaped after it paid its real estate tax bill. So, between its profit and existing subsidy what is fair???

        • DCStrangler

          It’s not a revenue loss because it is not revenue until the money is collected. The ACB is being disingenuous when they talk about programs that will be cut because of this loss of “potential” revenue. The end of year slush fund that goes to pet projects could easily cover the programs they are talking about. Funny how they never mention these programs.

          • James McCarthy

            So much inside knowledge without evidence. Astonishing. Believe me.

          • DCStrangler

            Inside knowledge? Every single year there is millions of dollars of unallocated funds. Instead of refunding this to taxpayers or future adjustments, they spend it. And often on pet projects. I’m looking at you Signature Theater and Fartisphere.

            They should rename the process to the Jay Fisette handout line.

          • James McCarthy

            Correction: specific allegation still without evidence. Millions every year? Are you saying the ANCC should receive the additional subsidy from the county?

          • DCStrangler

            Look at Arlnow.com for the articles they publish around Oct-Dec. Plenty of evidence of handouts. ANCC is not receiving a single dime of subsidy.

          • James McCarthy

            What definition of subsidy do you not understand? Every Not for Profit is subsidized by not having its finances subject to income tax. Virginia’s exemption for income, sales, and excise taxes is a subsidy by the state’s taxpayers.

            Reported “handouts” is merely yours [and perhaps Arlnow’s] characterization. Still no evidence of “handouts” of millions of $$ or otherwise. While the amount of the subsidy to ANCC may not be calculated, it is certainly greater than a dime. And, then, it’s your dime and my dime.

  • DCStrangler

    I’ll explain the last point. If the ACB doesn’t come to the table with a compromise, he’s going to sign the bill, or at least let it pass into law. What else could “local leadership” mean?

  • John Doe

    Governor Northam is pretty clear. What Arlington is doing is wrong, but he doesn’t really want to get involved. Maybe he’ll sign the bill. Maybe he won’t. Maybe he’ll amend it. Maybe the parties should not take their chances and come up with their own resolution. So far, the County’s position has been pretty clear for the past four years. The Clubs can pound sand and like it, or pound and don’t like it. And, as of this morning, there is no settlement offer on the table for the Clubs to accept or reject. So I don’t get your point about the Clubs not wanting to make a “fair deal.” Had the County wanted to cut a deal, there would not be a bill on the Governor’s desk.

    • DCStrangler

      I don’t think he can “amend” the bill. He certainly wants all parties to come up with a compromise, but unless Arlington comes to the table with a serious offer I don’t think it will happen.