Friday Question of the Day – Do You Support a Commuter Tax for DC?

The Stuffed Passenger
Photo from PoPville Flickr user Bogotron

The following question comes from twitter user @Zoom268. They write:

“Increase #wmata fares and reducing services? Where is the talk of a commuter tax/fee in or out of DC? ”

WTOP reports:

Board Member Chris Zimmerman says riders should understand now that fare increases and service cuts are necessary and inevitable… Some service reductions being considered are:

* Reducing bus and rail service on some holidays and holiday-related days (i.e. the day after Thanksgiving) to be more in line with ridership
* Eliminating bus service that overlaps local jurisdictional service
* Eliminating low-ridership bus service
* Increasing the intervals (headways) between trains and buses
* Closing some station mezzanines and rail stations during periods of low ridership
* Modifying late-night rail and bus service
* Beginning rail service later in the mornings

I don’t think we’ve ever discussed a commuter tax before for those that live outside DC and commute into the city for work. As a DC resident it’s easy for me to say I support one. But I’ve also heard arguments where if such a tax were implemented, DC will simply end up losing folks who set up their offices in DC. So what do you guys think about a commuter tax in general? Is it a good way to deal with the WMATA budget shortfall or is a fare increase and/or reduced services, unfortunately, the price that needs to be paid in this economic climate?

Ed. Note: You can follow PoPville on twitter here.

62 Comment

  • In a lot of ways, the problem with DC is the plethora of nice communities on the outskirts of the city.

    Those that might have been the rich tax base of DC live in Bethesda, Arlington, Mclean, etc.

    DC needs to find a way to generate more money from commuters.

    With that said, starting a ‘commuter tax’ would probably drive businesses out of DC and into the aforementioned suburbs.

    Perhaps a tax break for businesses that employ DC residents would make more sense. I think that the economic machinery of extracting dollars from commuters would need to be more sophisticated than just levying a tax directly.

  • nice pic, Mike!

  • This is the same death spiral that CTA in Chicago went through when I was there (earlier this decade). Raise fares and eliminate service, ridership goes down so you have to raise fares further and eliminate more service until you suddenly aren’t really a functional mass transit agency, you’re just servicing a couple high traffic corridors.

    I don’t know enough about how a commuter tax might work to say how effective it would be (and what problems it might bring with it), but watching CTA die the death of a thousand cuts, I’d rather not see it happen here.

  • I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure when DC tried to implement a commuter tax a couple of years ago, it was struck down as it’s in violation of Home Rule. So it seems like a moot point.

    That said, I can’t think it’s a good idea. NY ditched theirs in ’99 (I think). Every organization (all nonprofit) that I’ve worked for over the last decade or so has either moved across the river, or is planning to when their long term leases are up b/c rents in the city are so high and the majority of their employees aren’t District residents. I think a commuter tax would further incentivize nonprofits and small businesses to leave DC for the ‘burbs.

    Plus, it’s not like commuters don’t contribute at all. Many pay (really, really high) parking taxes at garages around the city, buy their lunches and dinners in DC, shop in our stores during lunch etc.

    I guess I might be in favor of instituting a toll system on drivers coming into the city (which is different than a commuter tax) but I’d worry that traffic would be even worse. Of course, it would also probably reduce incoming traffic and encourage more people to take Metro or whatever. Which brings a whole other set of issues, since Metro is currently unprepared (in a plethora of ways) to handle such an increase in ridership.

  • It’s actually fairly easy to impose a “toll” on all vehicles entering the downtown area. London does it today. You don’t need tool booths, just cameras hooked to license-plate-recognition computers; this is proven technology.

    If you want to improve WMATA’s finances and ridership, imposing a “congestion pricing” scheme on automobile traffic seems like a great idea to me.

  • I feel like some sort of toll system would be beneficial, and compel more commuters to use public transportation rather than the bridges and MD roads into DC. even if that doesn’t increase ridership on Metro, at least DC would profit from driving commuters. it costs $6 to go through the Lincoln tunnel. Why not charge 25-50 cents for crossing the bridges into DC from VA?

  • Metro funding problems and a comuter tax are actually 2 different issues. Metro suffers from the lack of a dedicated funding stream (especially in VA), and while I’d love to see sme kind of comuter tax for DC, it wouldn’t help Metro.

  • Sorry -“commuter” – not enough coffee yet

  • I fail to see how imposing a fee to get into the district in your personal vehicle, on a metrotrain or bus, or a commuter bus (a congestion pricing scheme) wouldn’t help metro’s funding woe’s. It sure seems like it would generate revenue for the city which may be delegated to exactly this type of project.

    How would this violate Home Rule?

  • In theory I would like more money from commuters (especially those who drive) for street repair but I am not sure it is practical or possible. The mechanics are easy for those on the bridges but not so much from the north and east where city streets from D.C. become streets in MD counties. Also, the city council floated that balloon a few years ago and Congress DID NOT like it. I don’t remember the specifics but they let definitely let it be known that this idea was a non starter.

  • One of the primary problems with implementing a commuter tax is that Annapolis and Richmond aren’t just going to sit around and watch that tax revenue go to DC without a fight. You can be sure they’d implement a reciprocal tax on DC residents that work in VA/MD to recover whatever they lose in a commuter tax.

    Trying to recover revenues lost via taxation is a tricky business. I remember when Barry passed a 25-cent gas tax on DC gas stations to try and generate money from MD/VA drivers. It nearly put every DC gas station out of business, since MD/VA AND DC drivers would leave town to get their gas.

    As for tolls on bridges, the major ones into and out of town are Federal property. You’d have to get the Feds to setup the toll system and have THEM push the revenues to DC.

  • Absolutely not. There are already enough reasons not to locate businesses in this city. All this would do is create even more of a black hole in the center of a region surrounded by affluent, economically vibrant areas.

    I love DC, but you’re kidding yourself if you think that the city is indispensable enough to the economic vitality of this region that it could tax commuters. The city is incredibly reliant on the sales tax dollars of our neighbors to the north and south, and a commuter (or congestion) tax will only keep people shopping in Bethesda or Tysons.

    A better solution? Lower income taxes, especially for those making less than 75k. Reduce or eliminate the incredible amounts of stifling bureacracy and ‘preservation socities’ that ensnare development. Enact more comprehensive mixed income housing legislation. Parcel development projects to mandate that no developer can build on more than 1/3 of a block at a given time. Decrease barriers to entry by opening up corridors that were exclusively zoned residential to limited commericial development. Revitalize NE. Increase charter school funding.

  • In a more perfect world, yes, DC would levy a tax on commuters who use (and abuse) DC roads and other public utilities day in and day out without every paying a dime. But in this world, we can’t even acheive representation in congress. So a commuter tax is essentially a non-starter.

  • Why is it that its sooo expensive to have decent mass transit systems in the US?
    The service is terrible at best and costs a fortune and the organizations running these systems ALWAYS complain they have no money.

    Go to any country in Europe and the mass transport is everywhere, reliable and practically free and on top of that the GDP of the DC area alone is as the national GDP of those whole countries!!

    What the hell? Can anyone explain this to me?

  • How are they going to distinguish commuters from residents? Will we have to show an id when buying a SmartTrip card?

    As a commuter from Maryland, yeah I’m against it!

  • It will never happen, so it’s not worth a long discussion. DC isn’t a state, MD and VA are; MD and VA will always block a commuter tax since they benefit from the existing situation (we’ve been down this road before). This comes up when DC politicians don’t want to anger the unions by forcing layoffs. None of these guys has the cajones to cut red tape to attract and support a larger tax base…which would buffet the tax rolls.

    DC’s tax problems are a result of having a small tax base and a huge civil service/union burden.

  • Rusty…we will know you’re not a resident by your MD plates…We’re sneaky that way.

  • Woah, woah, woah. Let’s get the terms of a “commuter tax” down first. In an ideal world (again, not ours, because Congress has shot down ideas of a commuter tax in the past), but the Commuter Tax would NOT be an additional tax, but DC would get a portion of the taxes that those who work in DC but live in VA or MD pay in their normal income taxes to VA and MD (i.e., in recognition of the fact that for 8-12 hours a day, they are in DC, not VA or MD, and DC incurs public service costs in excess of the sales tax revenue that VA/MD commuters supposedly generate from lunch spots, parking spots, etc.). So this wouldn’t force anyone out of the city, or have people set up offices outside of the city–VA and MD are essentially getting a free ride right now because they have less citizens to protect during the workdays.

    But, the commuter tax has nothing to do with metro fare hikes; the problem with metro is that there is no dedicated source of funding. Now, I suppose, the “deal” on the commuter tax is that all that money should go to Metro, but the logic of the commuter tax on VA and MD residents who work in DC breaks down at that point (some commute from DC to VA or MD, some commute from VA to other placs in VA, etc., etc.,).

    I support the commuter tax in recognition that of the time VA and MDers spend in DC that is underpaid for; and I support VA and MD getting their act together and finding a permanent dedictated source of funding for Metro. But the two shouldn’t be linked.

  • Can we tax metro riders and pool the money to buy Tai Shan and keep him in DC? Metro ridership will decrease without baby pandas in the District. I think I’ve made my case, now get to it WMATA Board!

  • Sorry: the “deal” on the commuter tax could be that all that money should go to Metro…

  • The commuter tax only ever comes up when there’s a revenue shortfall and DC is currently looking to shore up Metro’s finances. So while they are separate topics, the money pool is essentially the same. I don’t think you can separate the cause and effect here.

    Talking about a commuter tax is like talking about world peace. It’s a great concept, but it’s not going to happen in my lifetime.

  • Ragged Dog, I always take Metro to work.

  • I say no. I may live and commute in the district but that doesn’t mean I think VA/MD commuters should pay a tax for commuting to DC for work. If DC did something like this then MD and VA should do the same thing to DC residents who work in their jurisdictions. There are a lot of people who do a reverse commute in this city. A commuter tax would drive away businesses and some federal agencies might relocate to the suburbs because their employees can’t all afford or want to live in the district.

  • Ok…a couple of points:
    1) the way the commuter tax could work best is through payrolls rather than through traffic lanes. If you work in the city, but live outside the city, employers should be required, ala federal taxes, to withhold and extra howevermuchmoney from your paycheck every week/month/whatever. And, guaranteed, that the $1-5 that this would probably amount to, wouldnt be missed by 99% of those people, but would make a heaping lot of good for the city. And yes, I agree…those commuters are using the city’s services and not paying for them (and dont give me that “my federal taxes pay for the city bull).

    2) I also think another solution is to remove DC residents from the burden of federal taxation (i.e. no taxation without representation?!). Think of how attractive our city would be to those rich folks in the ‘burbs then! So if that happens it will be too much revenue being lost and DC would have to be granted a vote in order to capture the tax dollars…win-win if you ask me (as someone actually not opposed to paying taxes as a general proposition).

    Ok crack pot theory, I know…but you gotta admit it is kinda fun!

  • yes to commuter tax. i am tired of dc being used by the federal gov’t and suburbanites.

  • no no

    commuter tax is not an additional tax. its a proper allocation of your “state taxes” to reflect where you consume your public services. as it stands, your state taxes are paid to where you live not where you work which doesnt entirely make any sense. joe commuter would see no difference.

    and to the commenter that said this:
    “Parcel development projects to mandate that no developer can build on more than 1/3 of a block at a given time. ”

    oh come on! in order to get any economies out of construction, projects need to be larger. its the only way to lower prices. limit development sites (IMPOSSIBLE by the way) and you’ve instantly raised prices rents, leases and sales.

  • A commuter tax wouldn’t cost commuters any extra – it would basically pull in a portion of their taxes that would otherwise go to MD or VA…which, of course, is why it’s a complete non-starter and will never happen, since DC laws are subject to Congressional approval, and MD and VA have Congressional delegations and DC doesn’t. So, again, it will never, ever, ever, ever happen.

    London-style Congestion fees for automobile traffic are also never going to happen, for the same reason.

    The best solution for DC is to continue to adjust traffic patterns to increase walkability and bikability…making transit a more attractive option for commuters, who, in turn, might actually apply political pressure to their elected representatives to ensure proper funding of Metro.

  • as a reverse commuter, any commuter tax would mean i’d like have to move out of the city. (i can’t take the metro to work as the bus system in MD is so dreadfully bad from shady grove metro.) is it worth losing my tax $$$? i’m all for taxing the people who live outside the city and come in but it’s literally a 2 way street.

  • Simple solution – reduce the income tax rate on the first $100k of taxable income to 4% (currently 4% for first 10k, 6% from $10k to $40k, and 8.5% on over $40k. This will create incentive for young professionals to leave MD/VA and live in the city, expanding the tax base, increasing demand for housing (land values, increasing property taxes.

    The notion that creating another tax will help anything is ludicrous. They already tax anything and everything, which has created the enormous bureaucracy called government(like many jurisdictions), and now to feed the pig they want to levy another tax. Slaughter the pig!

  • @ Anonymous 8:45AM

    It’s not more expensive to have public transit here; we just don’t pay for it. European mass transit is cheap and has service because people in those countries pay much higher taxes that supports everything they get in return – reliable public transportation, a real social safety net, etc.

    Here in the USA we have this delusion that we can pay nothing in taxes and get something for it. In reality we get half-assed programs and services that don’t do anything to help people.

  • I would be fine with MD and VA imposing a commuter tax on those who live outside their borders but work within them. Fairs fair, and that apportions the budren properly. And, again, this would be a reallocation of the already-paid state taxes, so it is NOT an additional tax.

  • Philadelphia has a city tax. 5% if you EITHER live OR work in the city. It’s an automatic payroll deduction. People grumble, but there is no issue of folks choosing to live or work elsewhere because of it, and definitely no issue of choosing to locate a business elsewhere because of it. To suggest that DC would become a burnt-out husk of a city if such a tax were implemented is just fearmongering and selfishness.

    I’m for the congestion tax. It would either reduce traffic, or increase revenues, or both. More importantly, something needs to encourage folks to drive less and take public transport more. I’m seriously floored by how many people don’t think the energy and climate crises are their responsibility.

  • Everyone talks about how businesses would move to the VA or MD suburbs, but doing so greatly diminishes their opportunity to get the best and brightest. DC is centrally located. You won’t find someone with any common sense wanting to commute from Fredrick to Fairfax.

  • I’m for a commuter tax, but Congress would have to enact legislation allowing it since the DC Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization Act of 1973 (P.L. 93-198) which allowed for home rule specifically prohibits it. (Section 602(a)(5) of the Act for those who are really curious.

  • As said, commuter tax is a non starter. We are ruled by congress at the end of the day, most of whose staff live in MD or VA, so your saying they will vote for a tax on themselves. Hardly likely. They vote for pay raises, not pay cuts.

    It’d be like them donating their flu shots to DC. I nice thought and all, but lets leave pollyanna to play and work on real solutions, like encouraging people to live in DC, which gets to the root of many of the ills that plague DC (crime etc). I write this as someone hoping to escape these plagues and head for greener pastures next year. In MD or farther afoot…

  • Interesting comments re: flu shots, Pennywise. I don’t know who pays for them, but there lots of news stories a month or two ago about VA and MD residents coming into DC to get swine flu shots. I have no problem with that, but do wonder who’s paying for that.

  • I think a commuter tax is a bad idea for all the aforementioned reasons. What about a congestion tax a la London? The people who dont want to drive anymore will have to switch to public transport. Win-win no?

  • Through a commuter tax or otherwise, the three jurisdictions need to increase their contributions to the metro system. Every time deficits threaten metro services, either services get cut or riders are asked to pay more. However, I read somewhere that WMATA riders already pay a far larger share of public transportation costs than in any other city. VA-DC-MD all reap benefits from their metro stations and should provide for its costs accordingly.

  • Rusty, ah I get it now. On metro it would be when you enter a MD station and exit a DC station or by payroll taxes as mentioned earlier. I was thinking of having a toll station on every road coming into the city, which would reduce the number of PG county hooligans coming into DC and carjacking our residents..even those residents who I would probably like to send home to Kentucky.

    Metro..currently you only pay about 50% of the actual cost of riding the metro with your fare. So you come no where near “paying” for the metro when you hop on board. That’s considered a fairly high percentage for public transit.

    I don’t understand why we need bus service that mirrors the train service all over the city just so that someone can pay less to do the same thing. It’s a double wammy: increased costs, and decreased revenue.

    The District already receives a federal subsidy so the commuter tax reapportioning of federal funds is kind of redundant. They could just increase the subsidy.

    Ditto to the poster about bus service at Shady Grove. It’s up to 30 minutes for me to go 1.5 miles depending on the train/bus coordination.

  • To build on what quincycyclist said to Anonymous @ 8:45:

    It’s also much, much more expensive to drive overseas. I’ll use France and Turkey as examples. Not only is gas expensive (at least $4-5 a gallon all over Europe, in Scandinavian countries it’s closer to $7-8), but in a lot of countries the import taxes on foreign cars will crush you. If you see someone driving a Ford in Turkey, it probably cost them upwards of $50,000. Likewise, it’s incredibly expensive to buy a car in France that isn’t a Renault or a Peugeot.

    On top of that, getting a driver’s license in the first place is prohibitively expensive. In France, the driving age is 18, and you are required to pass driver’s ed. The test is so difficult that people often have to take it 2 or 3 times to pass. Each course of driver’s ed costs 1000 euros, so it’s not unusual for drivers to sink 3000 euros or more into their licenses alone.

    As a result, a far smaller proportion of the population can afford to get driver’s licenses and buy cars. So, you have a large percentage of the population who relies on public transit. Increased ridership in combination with high taxes and strong government support ensures that the systems have adequate funding.

    It’s also cheaper to build great public transit systems in small countries, where you don’t have to bridge distances of a few thousand miles.

    If only we had sunk our money into trains in the 1950s instead of the interstate highway system, we might have something on par with the systems of Europe or East Asia today. That would certainly negatively affect other industries (trucking, for one), but it would be a huge help to urban populations.


  • WDC – there is already a federal and local gas tax, do you honestly think another tax is necessary. The taxes are there, the government efficiency is not. If you think you just add it to the payrolls and there is no added amount of government on the other side to administer, enforce, collect you are delusional. Sure you have compliance from all the sophisticated businesses… what about the mom & pop shops, the self-employed, how do you govern compliance across the board. How many corner stores that collect cash pay 100% of the sales tax they owe the city? I’d wager to say, few.

    You can’t tax your way to prosperity… it’s not fearmongering, it’s the truth. Please refer to CA & NYC…

  • Philadelphia gets away with that because it’s part of the state of Pennsylvania and therefore has political clout. DC has near zero political clout….more than under Marion Barry…but close to Zero. We’re not exactly political kingmakers over here….Literally no one cares about the plight of DC and I don’t blame them. For 20 years we stuck our political thumbs in the eyes of the federal government and asked for more money to pay people to do almost nothing. Anyone remember how all the potholes started getting fixed as soon as Barry was gone?

    It’s hard to ask someone to take public transportation when the organization can’t run it’s trains on time, kills people regularly, can’t police itself to keep people from getting mugged, and generally could care less about it’s paying ridership.

  • As several have pointed out, the “commuter tax” that has been discussed in the past is not an additional tax. It is merely a reallocation of your MD or VA State income tax. Throughout the country, people who work in one state and live in another have some of their income tax paid in their state of residence reallocated back to the state in which they work (think of the many people living in NJ and working in NY). This actuall happens for people living in DC but working in VA — a portion of their income tax paid in DC gets reallocated to VA. DC is unique, thanks to the infinite wisdom of Congress, in that it is restricted by law from being able to get a reallocation of income taxes paid in VA or MD or elsewhere. All DC would be asking for here is what every other jursidiction in this country has a right to do. But, instead, DC is forced to spend a lot of money on public services for people working in the city but paying no taxes for the income earned here. This includes both people commuting from MD and VA and the many people who live and work in the district but maintain their residency elsewhere.

    (And for all those who argue that they do not consume any DC public services while in the district for work, I ask them not to use my publicly maintained roads, sidewalks, trashcans, EMS services, police, traffic lights, etc.)

  • Bored at work – you are referring to the MTA tax and it certainly is an additional tax. Look it up if you’re bored, it’s a tax on employers who have nonresidents on their payrolls. It costs money to the employer and the government has to hire people to administer, collect, enforce levying the tax. All those employers already pay property taxes, commuters pay parking taxes, parking fines, speeding tickets, sales taxes, alcohol taxes, tobacco taxes… why can’t that money maintain infrastructure?

    Do you actually think Annapolis and Richmond are going to reallocate their tax dollars to Deceitful Corruption? Especially when they are having their own budget shortfalls. Oh sure, we’ll (MD) give you a mass of land to house the Federal City, and in the future, when you prove you can’t self-govern, you can take some of our residents taxes from us by calling it a commuter tax.

    All the excuses for government inefficiency amazes me…

  • west kansas:

    congestion pricing is a great idea.

  • @ Dirty, 10:48AM:

    I regards to your comment about CA & NYC, you do realize that the reason CA has had it’s budget shit-show and is going bankrupt is specifically due to referendums that were passed that PREVENT the state from raising certain taxes (Prop 13, look it up) and has required spending in certain areas? NY went bankrupt in the 70s for the same reasons. It has nothing to do with overtaxation, it has to do with the fact that their moron citizens decided to entrench the Reagan ideal of “reduce taxes, spend like crazy” into their state constitutions.

  • NYC did not go bankrupt in the 70s.

    I think there is a DC Appleseed report on this whole thing really sets for the best arguments, so I’ll just provide the link to it here. Bottom line, though, at least as it applies to this argument, DC needs to be able to tax “commuters” (this is really the wrong term, because it should be non-resident workers)) just like every “state” in the nation is able to do.

  • Quincycyclist – so CA, the state with the highest tax burdens in the country is going broke because they “reduced taxes and spent like crazy” Prop 13, reduced property taxes and placed a cap on them, so people wouldn’t be priced out of their homes due to inflation and arbitrary rate increases by politicians looking to spend. CA can change it’s rates, it needs a 2/3 majority. I think you need to read up on this. CA is going broke, as are many states, because instead of “saving” surpluses when the times were good, they spent it all away. Now they are broke and want to increase taxes to fund all the massive entitlements. CA teachers are the highest paid in the Union, third lowest results. If a government can’t create tax producers, you suggest it just tax the producers it has, more… and than they leave, which is what’s happening in CA now.

    Blaming Prop 13 is a lame-ass leftist excuse for entitlements bankrupting CA. You demand the government does everything and then complain the programs don’t work because of a lack of money. More money equals better results is your motto… but you have such a problem with accountability, so the money just gets wasted away.

    If you want to pay more tax, feel free, don’t force me to continue to fund more than I already do, of the inefficient bureaucracies called government

  • Quincycyclist – so CA, the state with the highest tax burdens in the country is going broke because they “reduced taxes and spent like crazy” Prop 13, reduced property taxes and placed a cap on them, so people wouldn’t be priced out of their homes due to inflation and arbitrary rate increases by politicians looking to spend. CA can change it’s rates, it needs a 2/3 majority. I think you need to read up on this. CA is going broke, as are many states, because instead of “saving” surpluses when the times were good, they spent it all away. Now they are broke and want to increase taxes to fund all the massive entitlements. CA teachers are the highest paid in the Union, third lowest results. If a government can’t create tax producers, you suggest it just tax the producers it has, more… and than they leave, which is what’s happening in CA now.

    Blaming Prop 13 is a lame-ass leftist excuse for entitlements bankrupting CA. You demand the government does everything and then complain the programs don’t work because of a lack of money. More money equals better results is your motto… but you have such a problem with accountability, so the money just gets wasted away.

    If you want to pay more taxes, stroke a check. I shouldn’t have to fund the bloated bureaucracy more than I already do, just because the don’t know how to manage money.

  • U….which brings us back to the original point which is “it’s never going to happen”, so what’s your plan B to either raise revenue or lower expenditures? It’s a red herring to try get people pissed at MD/VA commuters and ignore the fact that metro has too many overcompensated employees.

    quincycyclist…you ignore the flip side of the argument which is more government spending doesn’t get you a better system. See DCPS Spending….

  • Dirty…
    Actually the proposition was a bad idea, but not for the reasons stated. It was bad because it created two classes of homeowners and distorted the housing economics. Existing homeowners got an effective subsidy when their property taxes were frozen and new homeowners got screwed because they were buying a more expensive house and paying the market rate. –The same distortion that rent control has on a rental market. The purpose was to keep people in their houses who had lived there before the boom, but most of those people moved out anyway because all the other costs of living went up with the influx of new residents during the boom. It was stupid from a market distortion perspective. Those same people were able to rent their homes out to the influx of new people at below market rates and make a killing.

    And the argument about the teacher’s costs is a little misleading because EVERYONE makes more money in CA. When I lived in San Jose I qualified for an apartment rent subsidy because I was making under $88k per year. So of course teachers are going to get paid more, that doesn’t mean they qualify as highly compensated.

  • The way I understand it, property taxes are capped, not frozen… much like the increases in DC. Your assessed value can increase, but the cap does not. If the cap doesn’t apply to only a primary residence, then I agree, it was bad policy. A new homeowner always pays the current market rate, not sure where you’re going with that.

    As for teacher salaries, sure cost of living has something to do with it, but cost of living is the result of high taxes. The point is they are paid to underperform… similar to many positions in government. Once you increase taxes, you have to make cost of living adjustments in the public sector… it’s all circular.

  • The cost of living has very little to do with high taxes and everything to do with high salaries for high tech workers. SF and SD became major tech centers and the salaries reflected the high demand and limited supply.

    I think a better analogy is that civil service and union heavy companies have no way to trim dead wood. So dead wood piles up over time while the tree dies. Dead wood still votes en masse though.

    If in 1990 I bought a $200k house and had a 4% property tax but it was capped at 1% increase a year I would pay much less than a guy who moved in next door to an identical house in 2000 now valued at $1M. He would start at $40k per year and I would still be sitting at 1/2 that. Despite the fact that we both now lived in $1M dollar homes.

  • Dirty, your analysis of Prop 13 is so laughably wrong that I can’t imagine what you’re going to write in the 11th grade. Keep it up. Wherever you got that information it’s from a group with such a radical agenda that McCain and Lou Dobbs looks liberal to them.

    Prop 13 is a textbook case, period.

  • Dirty, I know people who work in Delaware for my company working in slots that pay the exact same as they do in DC. By your “high tax” analysis Delaware salaries should be significantly less than they are in DC with a local income tax. However this is not true in the least for comparable slots. So you’re uneducated talking loudly about something you’re completely wrong about. Aren’t you embarrassed to write such BS? Give it a rest!

    you want to compare local commuter taxes, compare Delaware and Philadelphia. Philly has a commuter tax. You do not see differences in salaries in national/international companies like financial companies because they do not take residence into effect when pricing slots.

  • Given a choice between living in this American “low tax utopia”, with its crappy half-baked social infrastructure, and living in a “OMG high tax” country like Holland or even Sweden, I’d go for Europe every time.

    Unfortunately, since getting immigrant visas for my family and friends would be tough, I’m stuck here, trying to convince Americans that maybe we should look at how other countries are doing business, rather than letting our corporate-owned-and-operated Congress take us down the road to Third-World levels of income inequality.

  • I also like the idea of installing toll booths on major streets. For example on Georgia Ave right at the state line with MD or on DC part of Key bridge.

    That will cause less traffic, less wear and tear on our roads hence less money to maintain them, cleaner air, more metro riders…

    Does anybody know if DC can do that on its own or Congress has to authorize it?

  • @Dirty,
    So you think it’s fair that DC has to give over a portion of its income tax to Virginia for its citizens who work there, but Virginia doesn’t have to do the same? Doesn’t seem fair does it?

    I think Congress at least should eliminate the commuter tax for residents of DC.

    I’d be all for eliminating the income tax, except I think Congress would find a way to use DC as its petri dish in other ways.

  • Dr. Neener – Aren’t you embarrassed that you have a doctorate and can’t figure out that it would make more sense for you to take a job in Delaware and get the same money as living in DC? I was talking about public sector employees, how inept are you. Seriously, I wish I was as smart as you. I envy you. Sorry you can’t comprehend something so simple. This should further clarify things for you.

    As for Prop 13 – am I really wrong? How different is this ? Howard Jarvis and Paul Gann were the most vocal and visible backers of Proposition 13. Officially titled the “People’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxation,” and popularly known as the “Jarvis-Gann Amendment,” Proposition 13 was placed on the ballot through the California ballot initiative process, a provision of the California constitution which allows a proposed law or constitutional amendment to be placed before the voters if backers collect a sufficient number of signatures on a petition. Proposition 13 passed with almost 65% of those who voted in favor and with the participation of nearly 70% of registered voters. After passage, it became article 13A of the California state constitution.
    Under Proposition 13, the annual real estate tax on a parcel of property is limited to 1% of its assessed value. This “assessed value,” however, may only be increased by a maximum of 2% per year, until and unless the property undergoes a change in ownership. At the time of the change in ownership the low assessed value may be reassessed to full current market value which will produce a new base year value for the property, but future assessments are likewise restricted to the 2% annual maximum increase of the new base year value.
    If the property’s market value increases rapidly (values of many detached dwellings in California have appreciated at annual rates averaging more than 10% over the course of several years) or if inflation exceeds 2% (common), the differential between the owner’s taxes and the taxes a new owner would have to pay can become quite large. If a property is reassessed to full market value, the increase in taxes can also be quite large.
    The property may be reassessed under certain conditions other than a change in ownership, such as when additions or new construction occur. The assessed value is also subject to reduction if the market value of the property declines below its assessed value, for example, during a real estate slump. Reductions in property valuation were not provided for in Proposition 13 itself, but were made possible by the passage of Proposition 8 (SCA No. 67) in 1978.

  • Lou – hopefully we are all citizens of the US, but we are residents of DC/MD/VA. If a DC resident works in VA, they have DC tax withheld. So, I don’t know what portion is being given away, but I would guess you are misunderstanding how the system works, you are taxed where you live.

  • I think that transportation organizations should not be for-profit agencies. They should turn 100% of their profit toward the operation and improvement of the transportation system. Am I mistaken to think that the MTA and /or metro is a for profit entity? If so, there are probably times they choose to sacrifice service to maximize their profit when in reality they could actually keep more trains running. Just a thought.

  • You are wrong anon.

    “The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (primarily known as WMATA and often referred to as simply Metro) is a tri-jurisdictional government agency authorized by Congress

    As a government agency, the compact grants WMATA sovereign immunity by all three jurisdictions within which it operates, and except for certain limited exceptions, it cannot be successfully sued unless it waives immunity. For the provisions of the compact, the authority is effectively a District of Columbia corporation.”

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