Virginia Lawmakers Meet to Discuss Historic Tax Credits

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Downtown Staunton Downtown Staunton
John Accordino, interim dean of VCU's L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs John Accordino, interim dean of VCU's L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs
Kathy Frazier of Frazier Associates Architects Kathy Frazier of Frazier Associates Architects

Virginia lawmakers are studying whether historic tax credits bring in a return on investment. That question took center stage in Richmond Monday, August 29.

A panel of lawmakers listened to a presentation from Virginia Commonwealth University on the larger question of what's called heritage tourism, but one professor says it's difficult to nail down all the economic benefits associated with these tax credits.

VCU Professor John Accordino says the heritage tourism industry brings in billions of dollars and supports thousands of jobs.

The interim dean of the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs says Virginia’s historic buildings and sites drive tourism and industries like construction and hospitality. 

“Of course it has many impacts - aesthetic, cultural, social, environmental, economic,” said Accordino. “This is all part of the history economy that Virginia, frankly, excels at.”

Lawmakers on the Joint Subcommittee to Evaluate Tax Preferences held a hearing focusing on these issues Monday.

While they're assessing the costs and benefits of the program, Accordino says it's a challenge to measure the long-term return on investment, but it's clear the tax credits offer incentives to private investors and they boost Virginia communities.

"While you're at Natural Bridge, you might also go to downtown Lexington or downtown Staunton and appreciate the historic material,” said Accordino.

Kathy Frazier of Staunton's Frazier Associates Architects says she thinks historic revitalization projects have transformed downtown areas like in Staunton.

“Historic downtowns represent the social, governmental, institutional, economic, spiritual, and cultural heart of our communities,” Frazier said.

Some Republican lawmakers mentioned that they want to ensure the program is fair and financially responsible for taxpayers. Delegate Ben Cline said he wants to find out whether the government is choosing winners and losers.

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