Supreme Court on Commuter Tax: Thanks For Playing, Here’s Your Toaster

It’s all over but the crying for the DC Commuter Tax. The Supreme Court today refused to hear the appeal of the group trying to tax the ever-living bejesus out of workers who live in Virginia or Maryland. Of course, all of this comes at an inopportune time for the District, who are hamstrung by large capital investments in the new Stadium, and discussion of the construction of a new major hospital.

This is probably the most telling quote from the entire piece though:

“We’re clearly at the limits of taxation,” said Alice M. Rivlin, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the former chairman of the D.C. financial control board. “We tax everything we possibly can.”

With DC’s taxation at the limit, with a 10% Restaurant Tax, with an Income Tax that is 35% higher than the surrounding areas (Maryland is around 6.5%, DC is around 5%), what’s the District to do?

The answer seems to be: Ask Congress For More Money. With 15 schools to be closed, and budgetary issues looming, Special Envoy To The US Congress Eleanor Holmes Norton is requesting $800 Million for the District. That kind of money would solve a lot of problems for the City Government, and might let some of this all stand. The reason that people come into this city, day after day, is to work on behalf of the government, for its organs, for those who work as contractors, and all manner of other ways in which they make a living.

Why punish the workers when it’s the Federal Government that has so crippled the District?

6 Comments so far

  1. wayan (unregistered) on May 16th, 2006 @ 8:22 am

    My dear learned sir, the Supreme Court did not say “no” to a commuter tax, it didn’t even take a stand on the tax itself.

    The Supreme Court only acted to uphold past decisions that Congress has constitutional authority over the District. An authority it used to passed a prohibition on DC commuter tax.

    If Congress repealed the prohibition on commuter tax, then your free-loading ass would be taxed accordingly, and the Supreme Court would say “no” NoVA & MD – if they took their appeals to the Court

  2. Jeannie (unregistered) on May 16th, 2006 @ 8:37 am

    The large amount of revenue raised by the D.C. government for traffic camera tickets, and other fees and taxes paid by non-DC residents should be taken into consideration when determining the amount levied on the Federal government. Perhaps DC residents and businesses will be happier with their communities as more federal agencies downsize and move to the suburbs.
    It would be interesting to see what percentage of all non-DC resident money currently goes to road repairs and services that visitors and commuters receive for their contribution to the D.C. coffers and what percentage goes to support the D.C. welfare system.

  3. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on May 16th, 2006 @ 8:43 am

    Thanks for calling me a Freeloader, Wayan, I appreciate that a great deal, certainly raises the level of debate ;)

    That said, the ruling effectively outlaws a commuter tax without the consent of Congress, making a commuter tax impossible until such time as Congress relinquishes control of the District.

    Sorry, Wayan, no free rides for you :)

  4. Chris (unregistered) on May 16th, 2006 @ 9:44 am

    “Special Envoy To The US Congress”

    Thanks Tom,

  5. Jenn L (unregistered) on May 16th, 2006 @ 1:34 pm

    Back in 04 or so Alice Rivlin co-wrote a strategy paper about the District, the unfair tax burden, and the general inequality between DC having the spending obligations of a state without a state’s resources. Here’s the op-ed she wrote summarizing it for the Post:

    I’m sure a careful read of said report would enlighten readers, especially those who continue to labor under the misapprehension that we’re all free-loaders here in our fair city.

  6. Jenn L (unregistered) on May 16th, 2006 @ 1:36 pm

    Oh, and forget to add, that 800 million Tom mentions EHN is asking for is (I think )the amount that the Rivlin report cited as being equitable for the feds to pay…

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