D.C. Commuter Tolls
After years of having Congress knock down attempts at imposing a commuter tax, three D.C. Council members have proposed a workaround, Harry Jaffee reports.
Three council members — Kwame Brown, Harry Thomas Jr. and Marion Barry — have introduced legislation to study the idea of creating a toll system to charge commuters who want to cross the D.C. line.
Says Ward 2 Council Member Jack Evans, chairman of the Finance and Revenue Committee: “I’m looking at the possibility of holding a hearing on the bill. I would expand it to see how we could capture more revenue from commuters. The District of Columbia continues to subsidize two of the richest counties in America.”
That would be Fairfax County, Virginia, and Montgomery County, Maryland. By Evans’ accounting, commuters avail themselves of city services but pay no taxes to keep up the streets and bridges, let alone pay for cops and firefighters.
This reasoning — a slippery slope toward a commuter tax — is a surefire political winner in D.C. “Stick it to the suburbs” will translate directly into votes for Marion Barry and Harry Thomas. Both represent working-class wards on the city’s east and south sides. Kwame Brown, who serves at-large, can harvest votes citywide.
Every D.C. politician — from Evans to Gandhi and even to Barry — knows the end game of any proposal that attempts to tax commuters. Enacting such a tax would require a change in the Home Rule Charter and face a certain death in Congress.
Like it or not, paying a premium to use certain roads is coming. Once tolls get established for fast lanes on the Capital Beltway, the idea of paying a toll to enter the city might be right around the corner.
Commuter taxes have become quite popular in recent years, since they confiscate money from people who have no say in the matter. It’s taxation without representation and quite repugnant. The District would have done it long ago if they had the authority but Congress has rightly vetoed the move.
I’m not a fan of High Occupancy Toll lanes or carpool lanes, period, since they reserve roads that are being paid for by all the taxpayers for a select few. It’s also incredibly inefficient, since those lanes tend to be underutilized.
Still, that beats a tax on entering the nation’s capital.