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D.C. commuter tax could lead to 'turf war'

Monday - 8/13/2012, 10:45am  ET

DC 295 (WTOP/Dave Dildine)
Commuters take D.C. 295 in and out of the city. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)

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BALTIMORE - Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings says he is vehemently against letting the District of Columbia tax commuters.

Cummings told The Baltimore Sun that the move could lead to a "turf war and everybody will be taxing everybody."

Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican who chairs a House committee that oversees the District's affairs, proposed the idea again recently, saying it should be looked at following the presidential election.

Maryland is the District's largest source of employees with nearly 250,000 commuting into the District to work. That's about 43 percent of the city's workforce. Another 28 percent commute in from Virginia.

Where D.C.'s workforce lives

Maryland -- 249,668 -- 42.6%

Virginia -- 164,047 -- 28.0%

D.C. -- 158,871 -- 27.1%

Pennsylvania -- 3,107 -- 0.5%

New Jersey -- 1,591 -- 0.3%

New York -- 1,292 -- 0.2%

West Virginia -- 1,247 -- 0.2%

North Carolina -- 945 -- 0.2%

Delaware -- 720 -- 0.1%

Ohio -- 530 -- 0.1%

Source: U.S. Census

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has told WTOP he also opposes a commuter tax.

D.C. is the nation's only jurisdiction not allowed to tax income at its source.

District analysts say a 3 percent income tax on commuters would raise $1.2 billion in new revenue each year. That would be a significant boost for the District, which has a $9.65 billion operating budget.

If D.C. enacted a commuter tax, it would not increase the tax burden on Maryland residents because state law lets them claim a credit for taxes paid to other states, but the move could cost Maryland $700 million in revenue that would end up going to D.C.

Chris Metzler, a dean at Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies who commutes from Baltimore to D.C., says the the larger issue that's being obscured is home rule for the District.

"Make D.C. a state, and let them make their own decisions. Let them tax their own citizens and take responsibility for their own infrastructure," he tells The Sun.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press and WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)