Nick Freitas, seeking the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate, has been burnishing his record opposing tax increases - particularly in comparison to the credentials of rival Corey Stewart.
“The difference is I’ve never voted to raise taxes and Corey’s done it multiple times,” Freitas said during a May 21 interview of the John Fredericks Show, a conservative radio broadcast from Portsmouth, Va.
Freitas, a state delegate from Culpeper County, and Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, are joined by a third candidate in a June 12 GOP primary: E.W. Jackson, a Chesapeake minister.
We recently looked into Freitas’ claim that Stewart had voted to raise taxes “multiple times” and found it accurate. Six times in the last nine years, Stewart has voted to increase the average real estate tax bill for Prince William homeowners. Now it’s time to investigate the other part of Freitas’ claim – that Freitas has “never voted to raise to taxes.”
Freitas’ won his House seat in 2016 and has never held other elective office. The largest tax hike during his tenure comes in the state budget that will start on July 1; an increase in hospital taxes that could generate more than $200 million a year to pay for Medicaid expansion. Freitas voted against the budget.
All three years in Richmond, Freitas has been a member of the House Finance Committee, which oversees all revenue bills before the chamber. We sifted through all 368 bills that have been referred to the committee since 2016 and found 24 measures Freitas had an opportunity to vote on that either sought a slim tax increase or could open the door for one. The lawmaker opposed 21 of them, compiling one of the staunchest anti-new tax records on the panel. Sixteen of the bills arose from localities seeking state permission to assess certain types of taxes.
Freitas, for example, voted against 10 bills would have empowered various counties to increase their maximum tax rates on visitors who stay in hotels or other temporary lodgings.
He also voted against:
- Successful bills that broaden the authority of the three Southwest counties to charge admission taxes
- A failed to measure that would have allowed localities to assess a 5-cent tax on each plastic or disposable paper bag given to shoppers.
- A successful bill allowing Williamsburg, and York and James City County to charge a 1 percent additional sales tax on food.
- A failed measure that would have allowed localities to assess a storage tax on boats that are kept within their borders more than 180 days a year.
- A failed bill that would have raised the state sales tax on watercraft.
- A successful bill that could slightly increases taxes on all-terrain vehicles, mopeds and off-road motorcycles.
We found three instances when Freitas voted to allow or extend minor tax increases:
- In 2016, he supported a bill that ended a maximum $25 tax credit to people who contribute money to political campaigns. The credit, which began in 1999, has been claimed by about 18,000 Virginians a year.
- In 2017, he voted to allow five coalfield counties to keep charging a special 1 percent gas severance tax until 2020. The levy was scheduled to expire at the end of 2017.
- In 2018, Freitas voted for a bill that gives localities the option to raise personal property taxes collected on computers and equipment at data storage centers.
Bottom line: Freitas says he’s “never voted to raise taxes.” He’s certainly built a strong wall of resistance to new taxes since he came to the General Assembly.
But if you look very closely, you can spot a few hairline fractures in it.