Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has vetoed a tax measure that would have significantly cut taxes for two private golf courses in Arlington County.
The bill, pushed through the legislature by Fairfax Del. Timothy Hugo (R), would have cost affluent Arlington $1.43 million in tax revenue. It ordered the county to change the way it assesses property taxes for the Army Navy Country Club and the Washington Golf and Country Club, whose golf courses and related facilities occupy a combined 630 acres of land in residential areas inside the Capital Beltway.
The General Assembly, which will reconvene in special session this week, could try to overturn the veto. The bill passed the Senate, 27 to 13, and the House, 57 to 37, despite criticism from opponents who said it interfered with the constitutional right of local government to set its own taxes. A veto override would require 27 votes in the Senate and 67 votes in the House.
The memo attached to Northam’s veto said the bill was trying to address “a local dispute over a local government’s method of assessing land for property taxation. As such, the solution to this dispute should be reached on the local level without the involvement of the state.”
Northam noted that Arlington and the two clubs are in negotiations over how to assess the properties and that an agreement is near. He encouraged those talks “so that similar legislation will not be necessary in the future.”
The Army Navy club said it paid $1.56 million in taxes on a $157.3 million assessment in 2017, far more than other Northern Virginia golf clubs, although those clubs are all much further from the Pentagon and the District. Washington Golf paid $872,400 on an $86.7 million assessment in 2017.
Two days ago, the Army Navy club made a compromise proposal at Northam’s urging “that was difficult” for the club, said Raighne Delaney, the club secretary. He said the 5,000-member club was “pleasantly surprised” at Northam’s statement that a compromise is close to conclusion.
“While we are disappointed by the veto, we appreciate the governor’s encouragement, sincerely hope the governor’s statement proves to be true and await the county’s response to our offer,” Delaney said.
Washington Golf did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Arlington County Board urged Northam last month to veto the bill. Board Chair Katie Cristol (D) said the measure would have major implications for counties and cities throughout Virginia because it would infringe on local power to set property assessments and taxes.
Cristol said she is confident the county can reach an equitable solution with the golf courses.