More Taxation?

Adrian Fenty is running for Mayor of DC. He’s also, as of this evening, asked for the city council to start the process to add a referendum to overturn the Congressional ban on a commuter tax, according to NBC 4 news tonight at 11. The problem here is thus: the Referendum is preaching to the choir. It’s asking DC residents to decide that the city has power to tax the people who work in the District, but don’t live there. Please note that last part. It’s asking DC residents whether or not it’s okay to tax people that won’t be able to vote in the referendum. So, essentially, asking them if it’s okay if they shake down those people who are required to come into the city for their jobs for half their tax money while their own schools and road suffer as a result of the neglect. Why gee, thanks DC, that sounds like a great idea! Isn’t it bad enough I pay double the sales tax on my lunch than were I to buy it in Clarendon or Rosslyn or Bethesda? Isn’t it bad enough I pay double for the tax on my beer and dinner after work? Apparently not.

But what about all those license plates? The ones that read “Taxation Without Representation”? The ones whose mandate seems to say “We’re getting royally fucked by congress”? That’s exactly what you want to do those commuters. Fuck them. Fuck their communities. Fuck their schools. Fuck their roads. We have no vote in the mayoral or city council election, those of us who live in Arlington or Bethesda or PG County or Annapolis and brave the trip into the city. We have no say in your process, but somehow you want a good chunk of our change?

No way. Nuh uh. Sorry, dude, that’s not how this government of ours works. I’m sorry that you’re getting fucked by Congress on this whole budget oversight thing, really, I am, but decades of corruption and mismanagement aren’t our fault. Remember, we can’t vote in DC. We live in Maryland and Virginia, we vote for our own politicians, pay taxes in our own communities. I’m for your right to representation in Congress, I believe that the framers of our Constitution wanted Federal Representation for all of the citizens, not just those who live outside the federal city’s borders. But that belief in representation as a function of taxation is grounded in the citizen’s right to participate in that process through exercise of their franchise, and DC will be committing the same egregious sin that they are the victims of.

Do not rob Peter to pay Paul, Councilman Fenty. It’s the wrong way to go about this.

28 Comments so far

  1. Martin (unregistered) on November 16th, 2005 @ 9:50 am


    Forty communities nationwide impose commuter taxes. The District should have every right to do the same, given that some 300,000 out-of-towners come in to the city on a daily basis, use the city’s infrastructure, make money, and leave. Given the obvious structural imbalance that the District suffers from its inability to tax nonresidents who work here, the city should be within its rights to ask that they money you make here be taxed in the city. I worked in Arlington once, and paid taxes on my earnings there. The least nonresidents could do here is the same.


  2. wayan (unregistered) on November 16th, 2005 @ 10:11 am

    If we were talking a small number of commuters, I would agree Tom, but we’re talking the largest daily worker influx in big-city America.

    We have to host a 72% population change and you moan about a 10% sales tax? Please! The reason you pay double sales tax is that Arlington gets all the income taxes from DC workes but doesn’t have to provide the work infrastructure for them.

  3. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on November 16th, 2005 @ 10:15 am

    You paid DC taxes, Martin, because that’s where you live. You’re taxed where you live, not where you work, otherwise salesmen would have to pay taxes in all their territories, and that’s not the world works.

    People who come into DC to work don’t just make money and leave, they socialize, they consume, they shop. They also pay hefty sales taxes on everything that they buy there. And I’m fine with that. But we’re talking a major income source for the District, over which those who pay it have no control, direct or indirect.

    Tell me how that’s not taxation without representation?

  4. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on November 16th, 2005 @ 10:17 am

    Wayan, those commuters use services in their own counties all the time, their roads, their methods of transit, as well as the District. So now area communities will have to raise taxes just to keep the same level of services. Now there’s a great way to depress a local real estate market!

  5. wayan (unregistered) on November 16th, 2005 @ 10:22 am

    And while “they socialize, they consume, they shop” they also hit things, fall, down, need police, fire, water, sewer, and such, and overall take a huge toll on their daily play space. A toll that they should pay for.

    NYC has an agreement with its surrounding states that those governments refund a portion of their income tax receipts back to NYC. Note, individuals do not pay an extra “commuter tax”, its the governments who are asked to pay a share of the costs to house their residents during the day. Sounds like a fair plan to me.

    You’re just enjoying something (DC’s big city amenities) without paying your fair share for it and now getting touchy that a politician is calling you out.

  6. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on November 16th, 2005 @ 10:24 am

    Who’s getting touchy about it, Wayan? I’m just upset that they’re asking for half my state income tax without allowing me to vote. If I get to pay taxes, I ought to get to vote.

  7. Martin (unregistered) on November 16th, 2005 @ 10:34 am


    You do get to vote. Move into the District. Everything Wayan said is dead on. You come into the city, use its resources, and flee to a neighboring state with your earnings untouched. I doubt the sales tax on that sandwich and beer go a long way towards remedying the obvious inequality here.


  8. wayan (unregistered) on November 16th, 2005 @ 10:39 am

    Hey, my thoughts exactly, no tax till we can vote. Give us statehood, with real state powers, like a Senator Warner for example, we’d be happy. We’d also, like NYC, be taxing your ass.

  9. wayan (unregistered) on November 16th, 2005 @ 10:41 am

    – clarification – I want a Senator with Warner’s power, but not him, personally.

  10. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on November 16th, 2005 @ 10:42 am

    Why is that my only option, Martin? That doesn’t fit either.

    Wayan, you’re spot on. No one in DC should have to pay Federal Income Tax until they have a vote (a real one) in Congress and the Senate.

  11. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on November 16th, 2005 @ 10:42 am

    But he’s so your type, Wayan… :D

  12. wayan (unregistered) on November 16th, 2005 @ 10:50 am

    Agreeded – no DC resident should pay Federal Income tax.

    Now those commuters, how about pay-per-use for municipal services:
    911 call – $5 for police, $20 police + fire + ambulance
    roads – $10 per day per car

  13. WFY (unregistered) on November 16th, 2005 @ 10:51 am

    “You do get to vote. Move into the District.”

    How is that different than someone saying move to Maryland or Virginia if you want to vote?

  14. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on November 16th, 2005 @ 10:55 am

    I’m okay with bill-for-services, but bill my government, not me.

  15. wayan (unregistered) on November 16th, 2005 @ 11:07 am

    Um, Tom, that’s what Fenty wants to do, bill your government, not you. “Your government” being Arlington, or NoVA, or the Federalies, and the best way to figure out who is making money in DC – income tax records, and the most logical governments to tax – local ones who get the most direct benefit.

  16. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on November 16th, 2005 @ 11:12 am

    But he wants a percentage of my income, not based on the services I use inside the District.

  17. wayan (unregistered) on November 16th, 2005 @ 12:42 pm

    You make your income in DC. You use DC services to make that income. Tax the income. Easy to comprehend, easy to administer. Everyone happy.

    Tax you on every individual service? So impractical to be laughable. What, you have to pay per footstep on a sidewalk? Per sip at a public fountain? Per minute in a park? Per call to the cops? Per water bucket in a fire? Per…

  18. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on November 16th, 2005 @ 1:44 pm

    But those people that commute to Maryland, they use the infrastructure in Maryland, and yet, somehow, they don’t have to pay a tax to Maryland. Is this not a recipe to chase businesses out of the District?

    Sure, you were offering taxation on individual services not long ago, I’d be glad to pay a set amount for road work per annum based on how often I drive into the city, or perhaps a flat fee? But a percentage? No way jose.

  19. wayan (unregistered) on November 16th, 2005 @ 2:14 pm

    We’re talking volume here Tom. The number of DC residents going to MD or VA is tiny, while there are 412,000+ commuters coming into DC almost double DC’s population. If 400,000 people started flooding Arlington every work day, you’d be screaming till pass-out for compensation too.

    And a flat fee? That’s called a regressive tax. A $20 per day fee (for argument’s sake) would be annoying to you but prohibitive to a retail service worker. Just like a $5 per police call.

  20. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on November 16th, 2005 @ 2:18 pm

    200,000 DC residents flood Northern Virginia every day, Wayan. You don’t see us asking their tax money.

  21. wayan (unregistered) on November 16th, 2005 @ 2:46 pm

    200,000?! Quote your source, please.

    Me, I’m using the Census 2000 PHC-T-40. Estimated Daytime Population and Employment-Residence Ratios: 2000 which says that only 70,318 workers lived in DC but worked outside the District – in total, not just NoVA.

    Arlington and Alexandria received 52,000 in total. The Census numbers do not say where those 52K come from, but I’ll bet most are from other NoVA cities, not DC. Cities that pay state taxes which are shared across the state.

  22. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on November 16th, 2005 @ 2:48 pm

    Sorry, teach me to go off DCist’s comments page’s stats. So, do you think that we should get half their tax money, too? Or do you think that their money should stay in DC?

  23. Don (unregistered) on November 16th, 2005 @ 4:38 pm

    The problem with a commuter tax is that it’s cowardly. Rather than go after the X businesses in the district who employ these people, go after the 1000X individuals who have much less bargaining ability. Lord knows it’s not the welcoming attitude of DC residents that attracts workers to these jobs in the city, it’s the work. So go after the employers with surcharges on water, electric, etc.

    But of course the city won’t do that. They want businesses there and businesses won’t put up with that crap – they’ll just leave if they’re able. So they have to stick it to the individual who is less able to leave. Not that it won’t bite them in the ass eventually anyway when businesses are less able to attract skilled workers at a competitive rate and end up moving outside the city.

  24. JW (unregistered) on November 26th, 2005 @ 2:21 pm

    “The problem here is thus: the Referendum is preaching to the choir. It’s asking DC residents to decide that the city has power to tax the people who work in the District, but don’t live there. Please note that last part. It’s asking DC residents whether or not it’s okay to tax people that won’t be able to vote in the referendum. So, essentially, asking them if it’s okay if they shake down those people who are required to come into the city for their jobs”

    You really like to misrepresent the facts on this issue, huh, Tom?

    As I explained on the day the DC Circuit ruling came down, your argument here makes precisely the point we (DC) make to the courts — Congress (IN WHICH WE HAVE NO VOTE) decided not to let us do what every other part of the country can do — tax non-resident income.

    And what is this crap about people being “required to come into the city for their jobs” — I don’t see anyone telling them where to work. They don’t like it? How about staying in their home state and working and not using our resources for free?

  25. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on November 27th, 2005 @ 8:20 pm

    Fact doesn’t change you’re still taxing people without providing representation, JW.

  26. Jason Berry (unregistered) on November 28th, 2005 @ 10:45 am

    “Fact doesn’t change you’re still taxing people without providing representation, JW.”

    This is irrelevant for the discussion. You would only be forced to share your income tax with your home state and the district if you used the services in the district, i.e. chose to work here. You have a full-fledged State that can work something out with the District to not greedily tax all your income that your state did not host, but share it with the state where it was earned. I would fully support the same thing for DC residents that work in MD or VA (like my wife).

    Its funny, but you don’t hear people in the other 80% of the States in country complaining that their income taxes are shared when they work out-of State?

    As for “taxation without representation”, read our lips: THERE IS NO NEW TAX here – just a sharing of the income tax you currently pay between your State and the District. If anything it IS taxation with representation – the tax sharing aspects of a commuter tax represents your use of out-of state services that hither fore where not represented in the DC budget!

  27. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on November 28th, 2005 @ 11:18 am

    Just because other states are doing it doesn’t make it right, Jason. Perhaps it’s time to re-examine that foundation document stored in the Archive?

  28. JW (unregistered) on December 3rd, 2005 @ 1:56 pm

    A long-standing right to tax income where it is earned is now not good for you because it might actually affect you?

    It’s not 2 wrongs don’t make a right here. It’s right. Taxation of income earned within borders an iron-clad Constitutionally sound approach to taxation and one endorsed by the Supreme Court for decades.

    You wanna reexamine all this and turn the nation’s economy on its head so your state doesn’t have to share taxes with DC?

    Great idea. You’re a real Constitutional genius.

    You must be some sort of philosophy major or something — someone who lives in the theoretical as opposed to the practical world.

    All DC and its citizens want is to be treated like the rest of the country. I know that’s a lot to ask.

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