Sen. Mark Herring (D-Loudon) said Thursday that he would oppose a request by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors to obtain the authority to impose a variety of new taxes on Loudoun residents, including a meals tax.

The issue has sparked controversy in Loudoun before: Residents have voted down a meals tax by referendum three times in the past decade, according to local officials.

“A meals tax is a regressive tax that would unnecessarily burden low- and middle-income families already struggling to make ends meet in this difficult economy,” Herring said in a statement. “The General Assembly should not attempt such an end-run around the voters of Loudoun County who have spoken clearly and repeatedly on this issue.”

Board Chairman Scott K. York (R-At Large), who supported the request at a board meeting Tuesday, said that a meals tax could potentially ease the tax burden on property owners and help pay off the debt associated with school construction.

The request was narrowly approved by the board in a 5 to 4 vote, with Supervisors Ken Reid (R-Leesburg), Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling), Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) and Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian) opposed.

Delgaudio predicted that the response to a possible meals tax would be just as impassioned as in the past.

“There was an angry mob, ladies and gentlemen, and that angry mob is still out there,” he said. “When you’re out there to charge them a buck or two for a hamburger, that’s pretty serious money in Sterling.”

York emphasized that the issue at hand was simply whether or not to seek the authority to impose the tax, not whether to impose the tax itself. He also noted that nearly 40 percent of the revenue generated by a meals tax comes from visitors and tourists, rather than Loudoun residents – an argument that appeared to resonate with some members of the board, but not others.

Volpe responded by noting that she – along with other members of the board – ran on a platform of limited government and lower taxes.

“We were not elected to do this,” she said. “I will not support it.”