Thursday, November 17, 2005

DC Commuter Tax Update

From The Washington Times:

Attempts to impose a commuter tax in the District took a new turn yesterday.

An appeals court rejected the city's efforts earlier this month, but D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty introduced legislation yesterday to hold a referendum on the matter.

Mr. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, said if D.C. voters approve the referendum, it would amend the city charter, removing the commuter tax restriction Congress put into place when it granted the city home rule in 1973.

"Citizens have the right to vote to change the charter," said Mr. Fenty, who is running for mayor in next year's primary. But he acknowledged that if the referendum passes, it still must be sent to Congress for approval -- like all D.C. laws -- before it is enacted.

It is somewhat amusing that with all the populist posturing by DC politicians, they simply ignore the fact that they are calling for a vote in which no one who would be forced to pay the new tax will be allowed to vote. (Meanwhile, DC license plates fallaciously proclaim "Taxation without Representation.") Instead, the DC position is that they should have the right to steal tax revenue from neighboring states. If DC didn't already have the highest taxes in the region, maybe more people would be willing to live there.

I also have to question a commuter tax on policy grounds. Commuters come into a city, work, spend money, and go home. Commuters and their employers already pay a broad range of taxes directly and indirectly (e.g., sales, corporate, and property taxes). Most importantly, however, the impact of a commuter is very small. Commuters aren't sending their kids to city schools, they aren't committing crimes, they aren't filling up the jails or the hospitals, they aren't collecting welfare or living in public housing, they don't use the libraries, and they aren't even present in the city two thirds of the time. A regional organization, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, runs the transit system.

If mere presence of non-residents is a drain on local economies, why do cities spend so much money promoting tourism? DC politicians just want some easy money and publicity:
Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) dismissed Fenty's effort last week, calling it "silly" and "just a way to get some publicity and get some people razzed up."
If DC has financial problems directly resulting from the presence of the federal government, that's an issue to take up with the federal government - not Maryland and Virginia.

Or perhaps the U.S. should seek to balance its budget by taxing Canada.


For earlier coverage, check out DC Loses Lawsuit Against U.S. Constitution.
Click here for an overview of DC's 2006 budget.

1 comment:

Tony K said...

Nick, thanks for your comment earlier. I wanted to send you a trackback but couldn't find a link. Here is my latest post that mentions your site

Tony K

http://tony-k.org/blog/?p=19