Ask House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) about most national political issues and he’ll give you the standard Democratic talking points. But get him talking about an issue of local concern, and you’ll earn a more thoughtful answer.
Hoyer, whose Maryland district is home to hundreds of thousands of federal government employees and contractors, insisted Wednesday that any new effort to impose a commuter tax on Maryland and Virginia residents who drive into the District to go to work won’t succeed — not if he has anything to do about it.
“This is a unique area of the country. This is a government town, that’s its industry, that’s what supports it,” Hoyer told reporters Wednesday. “Frankly, a lot of people live in the suburbs because they can’t afford to live in the District of Columbia – including police, fire, other personnel.”
Hoyer said a commuter tax isn’t necessary, because “everybody in America pays to support the District of Columbia, everybody pays that because it’s the capital of the United States of America. That’s the appropriate way to fund it.”
Hoyer spoke at a reporter breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
Longtime advocates for a D.C. commuter tax to help fund city operations and transportation projects were stunned last week when Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee with jurisdiction over District affairs, suggested that the idea of a new tax deserved some attention.
“I think we should, after the election, start thinking about how we’re going to deal with the only place that doesn’t have the ability to tax people who earn their income in that place,” Issa said at the end of a hearing on whether Congress should change the law restricting building heights in the District.
Federal law bars the District from imposing a commuter tax, but city officials have long sought ways to impose one. A federal appeals court ruled in 2005 that D.C. could not impose such a tax without congressional approval after local activists and leaders filed suit seeking to overturn the ban.
In his comments, Hoyer noted that previous efforts to impose a commuter tax have failed, and he suggested that if any new effort succeeds, he might join with his congressional colleagues from Maryland and Virginia to move the headquarters of federal agencies out of D.C. and into the suburbs “so that our citizens can work and live in their communities, which they would really enjoy.”
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