Augusta County cigarette tax: ‘We have met the enemy’

By Tracy Pyles

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How is it Augusta County, a true bastion of small government conservatism, has elected leaders who continually reject that “the government that governs least, governs best”? Perhaps the best explanation is an old one, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

The Augusta County Board of Supervisors is comprised of seven Republicans. And yet to the horror of the good people who elected them, they continue to choose careless spending over cautious money management.

Consider that this “RINO” Board, with its cigarette levy, has now imposed its fourth, yes 1, 2, 3, 4, tax increase since March. First came a ten-cent increase of the car tax which was then parlayed with 50 percent increases in both meals and lodging levies.

These takings come on the heels of raising Real Property Tax to an historic high of $.63 three years ago, just before property reassessments. On average the county’s charge for us to live in our own homes has risen 20% since January 2018.

Since I left the Board, local taxes have gone up an average of $528 per household. An obscene 24 percent rise from $71.3 million to $88.7 million. But of all the increases none seem more callous than this cigarette tax.

At this last Board meeting no Supervisor could justify initiating this tax until Beverley Manor Supervisor “Butch” Wells offered: “Didn’t we ask the legislature to give us this authority” (to tax cigarettes). As heads nodded in agreement; it was clear these folks had found the justification they were looking for: no tax can be left unused.

With this certainty of purpose the Board went forward despite not knowing how much money the tax would raise, how it was to be used, how much it would cost to monitor compliance and then collect.

Lastly the Board chose to join a “Regional Taxing Board.” Because they hadn’t asked Staunton or Waynesboro how to impose this tax themselves, they opted to hand the work over to bureaucrats.

As Pogo is quoted as saying, “we have met the enemy and he is us”.

Tracy Pyles is a former chairman of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors.


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