Something that really gets Virginia politicians up on their soap box is the threat of a commuter tax from Washington, D.C.
A group of lawyers is preparing briefs in an attempt to get the courts to throw out a 1974 federal law banning the District of Columbia from taxing the income of citizens from other states who work inside the city. The D.C. Council voted this week to join the lawsuit, which prompted Maryland and Northern Virginia public officials to circle the wagons.
Perhaps the only thing politicians from Maryland and Virginia can agree on these days is the opposition to this diversion of tax money into the not-so-reliable hands of the D.C. government.
In the event that a lawsuit prevailed, D.C. officials believe they could tax the income of people who commute into the city each day from neighboring states. Such a tax could collect between $500 million and $1.4 billion.
Both Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Sean Connaughton and Loudoun Supervisors Chairman Scott K. York were quick to go on the record opposing the commuter tax idea. Both county governments may soon pass resolutions objecting to the D.C. plan. Rep. Tom Davis, R-11th District, and Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore also voiced opposition to the plan.
Hearing of the united opposition in the Old Dominion, D.C. Council member Jack Evans spoke his mind about his neighbors south of the Potomac.
“I’m appalled at the people in Virginia,” Evans told the Washington Post. “They’re living up to their reputation of being narrow-minded. When you think of people in Virginia, you think of them as backward, and they confirm it on something like this.”
Why doesn’t Councilman Evans tell us what he really thinks, instead of sugarcoating his remarks?
We wonder if this view of backward, narrow-minded Virginians would change if they were suddenly required to fork over part of their paycheck to Evans and his bloated D.C. government which has historically set an example for bureaucratic inefficiency.
The arguments in favor of the commuter tax surround the fact that thousands of workers travel into the District each morning using services, such as roads and police, only to leave each night while sending their income taxes to Richmond and Annapolis. If D.C. were allowed to collect taxes on the income of commuters, it would most likely drain money from Virginia and Maryland which would have to offer tax credits to those paying the tax.
There are two certainties about Northern Virginia taxpayers. One: They refuse to pay more in taxes; and two: they are very picky about what their tax money supports.
Washington, D.C., officials moan about being denied “statehood” through their “Taxation Without Representation” motto. But a commuter tax would be exactly that.
Northern Virginians, with their income taxed by the District would have no voice in the D.C. government. Considering the fact that many Northern Virginians are sticklers for spotting government waste, we doubt that the D.C. government could handle the heat if the commuters were taxed.
The residents and local governments surrounding Washington, D.C., are not unsympathetic to that city’s problems. The past two decades have seen enormous cooperation between the District, Virginia and Maryland. But the District’s decision to go to court to extend its taxing authority only hurts the region as a whole.