A District City Council committee is expected to establish two citizen committees today - with 535 members each, one assigned to every member of the House and Senate - to work for a tax on commuters and a doubled federal payment.
"I hope and expect each member . . . to hound the Senator or Representative to which she or he is assigned . . . I hope each committee member can wait outside the Congressional member's front door, putting in a good word for the non-resident tax or doubled federal payment as the Senator or Representative bends down to pick up the morning paper," said Marion Barry (D-at large). Barry heads the council's committee on finance and revenue and initiated the idea.
Another part of what Barry termed a major new campaign to obtain "fairer federal assistance" for Washington is a "Washington Must Have a Non-Resident Income Tax by Fiscal Year 1979 Resolution," introduced by Barry and four council colleagues.
The 11-page resolution details in strong language what the council members see as a growing economic crisis for the District. As evidence, the resolution cites the projected gap between spending and revenues of $126 million by fiscal year 1979.
Joining Barry as sponsors of the commuter tax resolution are David A. Clarke (D-one), John A. Wilson (D-two), Polly Shackleton (D-three) and Arrington L. Dixon (D-four).
Their proposal sets the level of taxation on non-residents for fiscal 1979 at 50 per cent of whatever rates pertain to D.C. residents. Eventually, non-residents would pay at the same rates as city dwellers, which Barry said is the standard practice applied to non-residents elsewhere in the U.S.
Every state which has an income tax has authority to tax the income of non-residents but Washington, as a state-type authority "stands alone as the one jurisdiction which is prevented from taxing . . . (a) flagrant discrimination against Washington," according to Barry.
The five council members, in their resolution, noted that Maryland taxes the income earned within its borders by residents from 28 other states. Virginia taxes residents of 31 other states.
Congress must "no longer place Washington . . . in a position of financial slavery under home rule," they asserted. The group called on District Mayor Walter E. Washington to launch a campaign for the commuter tax that would include bumper stickers and public forums.
The program is not designed to aid big business but "rather is a humanitarian effort which will provide the financial means to help assure that home rule works for the District," he added.
In the resolution calling for Congress to enact legislation to permit commuter taxation - specifically prohibited in the home rule act - the five council members cited a number of factors about the deteriorating D.C. economy, including:
About 63 per cent of the city's capital improvement program is for facilities under construction, expansion or rehabilitation which directly benefits commuters - police, fire, streets and highways, recreation, environmental services and the subway.
The "greatest" service provided by D.C. to the suburbs is accepting the burden of the "vast majority" of the region's poverty problems. Because of the city's large share of public assistance, housing and health, costs for every single municipal service are higher than they otherwise would be.
Washington is losing 7,600 persons a year while the suburbs are gaining 46,000 annually. In D.C., 18.5 per cent of households are headed by persons 65 or older compared with 7.8 per cent in the Virginia suburbs and 10.1 per cent in Maryland: 17 per cent of D.C. families have annual incomes under $5,000 compared with 3.7 per cent in suburban Virginia and 3.5 per cent in Maryland.
Unemployment has exceeded 3 per cent in D.C. recently compared with a suburban rate of about 5 per cent. Only 27.3 per cent of the Washington work force are engaged in stable and well paid professional or managerial jobs compared with 40 per cent in the suburbs (more than 50 per cent in Montgomery County).