Thursday, November 26, 2009

Landowners vote for land tax to build railway

In Virginia US there is a missing section of railway between Dulles Airport and Washington DC. The problem is how to raise $330m funding for the 23 mile railway and three new stations. The actual route is sorted as it will fit in the central reservation of the motorway link to the airport (US speak: 'median strip of the Dulles Access road'). On 10th October this year the group planning for the link, WARD (Western Alliance for Rail to Dulles) achieved nearly 60% of the votes from commercial and industrial landowners (51% are needed to make the scheme run). Homeowners are exempted from paying. With a few more hurdles to go, the project is hoped to be confirmed by the end of 2009. It is Phase 2 of the Dulles Metrorail Project. Phase 1 is under construction - opening in 2013. When both parts are complete a huge area of north Virginia will be much more accessible from Washington DC.

Why on earth would landowners vote for a new tax? It starts at 5 cents per $100 land valuation and climbs to 20 cents in 2013 (0.05% to 0.20%). The urban corridor is home to a population of over 577,000 which is expected to grow by another 350,000 in 20 years and jobs are expected to rise from about 500,000 to 750,000. The landowners see the area achieving a fuller development potential with this rapid transit rail system particularly helping employees locally and others accessing to and from the wider region. Derek Kravitz writes in the Washington Post article (see below) quoting US Rep. Gerald E Connolly: 'this was a decision that was out of self-interest for the future'. The theme is that land values will rise as the railway will make the area more attractive to businesses, so existing landowners are willing donors of their taxes. A sprat to catch a mackerel.

Other sources of funding will help this scheme too, but the bulk is from the land tax. See the WARD website
or look at this Washington Post article

Land value tax is not only the natural source for infrastructure funding but could very well be a fair replacement for other taxes. We tax hard work and creativity through income tax and VAT. But the general prosperity that results from the same hard work and creativity, over the years automatically feeds through to rising land values. Landowners generally are exempted tax on their gains. How fair is that?
Buy and read The Free Lunch - Fairness with Freedom for more on this.

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