For a jurisdiction with license plates that carry the motto “taxation without representation,” the District of Columbia and councilman Jack Evans, D-Ward 2, seem exceptionally eager to levy taxes against commuters from Virginia and Maryland.
When Virginians, who just naturally resist taxes on principle, expressed disagreement with the idea, Evans attacked their integrity and intelligence.
“I’m appalled at the people of Virginia. They’re living up to their reputation of being narrow-minded,” Evans was quoted in the Washington Post earlier this week.
“When you think of people in Virginia, you think of them as backward, and they confirm it on something like this,” he said.
Prince WIlliam Board of County Supervisors Chairman Sean T. Connaughton, R-at large, said he is exploring the possibility of instituting “Kcaj Snave Day” (Jack Evans backwards) to prove the generosity of those who live in the Old Dominion, commute to the District of Columbia and contribute mightily to the operation of the federal government.
“Mr. Evans believes Virginians are backward,” Connaughton said in a recent press release, “and this is one way for us to respond to his remarks.”
Connaughton said he is thinking of asking Prince William’s 17,000 commuters to organize for a march from Virginia to the District.
“A perfect way to celebrate Kcaj Snave Day,” Connaughton wrote in his press release, “is for enthusiastic, tax-paying Virginia commuters to walk backwards from Mt. Vernon, the Virginia home of the person after whom Washington, D.C., is named, to the Jefferson memorial in the District.”
“The really enthusiastic commuters can even wear their clothes backwards,” Connaughton said.
“If any commuters want to join me and walk backwards, I’ll wear my clothes backwards. No problem. If people want to do it, I’m there,” Connaughton said.
“They want to tax our people even though they won’t have any representation there in the district,” Connaughton said.
Perhaps if Evans visited Virginia, Connaughton said, he might find the Old Dominion culturally evolved and quite progressive.
Connaughton invited Evans to come to the Prince William County Fair, the largest in Virginia, between Aug. 8 and 16.
“The fair features a NASCAR Simulator, an Elvis Tribute, a truck and tractor pull, a garden tractor pull, a demolition derby and rodeo. How can he say we’re narrow minded?” Connaughton said.
“In fact, to show that I’m not greedy I’ll pay for a ticket for him and his family if he shows up,” Connaughton said.
While Connaughton’s invitation to Evans is genuine, so is his intention to shield Prince William commuters from additional taxes.
Connaughton will still introduce a resolution in Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of County Supervisors opposing the lawsuit that instigated the acrimony between jurisdictions.
The resolution will also direct the county attorney to “examine the feasibility of Prince William County defending its residents in court if the District of Columbia files a lawsuit seeking the ability to implement a commuter tax.”
The District government has joined a consortium of lawyers who plan to challenge the Home Rule Act, passed in 1973, that prohibits the City Council from taxing the income of non-District residents or federal property.
“If I understand it correctly, the D.C. Council said this week that they would become a party to it,” Connaughton said of the pending lawsuit.
“So it’s not just a bunch of public interest lawyers getting together. Now the D.C. government is officially going to be a party. They’re actually going to be a plaintiff,” he said.
“I think what they’re trying to say is it violates the equal protection clause,” Connaughton said.
Whatever the outcome, it could be some time before a decision is reached.
“They’re going to have to file suit in the D.C. District Court and then if one side or the other loses there … it gets appealed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and the next step would be the Supreme Court,” Connaughton said.
In 1997 Congress passed the National Capital Revitalization and Self Government Act which provided $200 million in debt relief to the District of Columbia and took back $5 billion in unfunded pension liability.
The act also relieved the District of the responsibility of paying for Medicaid, the courts and prisons.
Additionally, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the District of Columbia received federal grants and other payments that totaled $4 billion in 2002.
Virginia received $6.2 billion and Maryland received $5.6 billion during the same year even though each state’s population is more than 10 times greater than that of the District of Columbia.
The resolution Connaughton will present to the Prince William supervisors said that $500 million to $1.4 billion would be redirected from surrounding jurisdictions into the District of Columbia should the lawsuit succeed.
David Marin, spokesman for Rep. Tom Davis, R-11th District, said the estimates in Connaughton’s resolution were correct.
“I’ve seen different estimates, but it’s anywhere from $400 million a year to a billion dollars a year,” Marin said.
Marin doubts the chances of a success in overturning the National Capital Revitalization and Self Government Act.
“The Home Rule is very clear. It prohibiting the District from taxing outside income,” Marin said.
The District, Marin said, received adequate consideration and a fair exchange for the loss or it ability to tax commuters under the Revitalization Act which was introduced by Davis.
“A lot of their unfunded mandates were taken away from them and the federal government assumed responsibility for them,” Marin said.
The District’s financial performance has improved with the current administration, but the shadow of the Control Board and ongoing management problems make it unlikely that the federal government will take money from the states and hand it to the District.
“I think Davis thinks management of the city has improved under Mayor Williams,” Marin said.
“They’ve balanced their budget for six consecutive years and that’s a significant accomplishment,” Marin said.
“Politically, the argument in favor of taxing commuters is hard to make given the fact that you can’t pick up the paper for a week at a time without hearing about another management scandal in the District of Columbia,” Marin said.
“Some of the comments Mr. Evans has made over the past few days, including calling Virginians narrow-minded and backward … those comments are sad and they are destructive to the causes that are most important to the residents of the District,” Marin said.