Rep. Newton I. Steers Jr. (R-Md.) was present at a meeting of the House District of Columbia Committee and voted to kill legislation that would have permitted city taxation on the incomes of suburban commuters. The Washington Post erroneously reported yesterday that Steers voted by proxy.
By a vote of 12 to 8, the House District of Columbia Committee killed legislation yesterday that would have permitted the city to tax the incomes of suburban commuters.
"It's dead for the 95th Congress," Del. Walter E. Fauntroy (D-D.C.) concluded after an hour of sometimes bitthe debate over the tax issue.
Defeat of the bill was a victory chiefly for Rep. Herbert E. Harris (D-Va.), who solicited and got a letter from the White House last week restating the Carter administration's opposition to a commuter tax.
Fauntroy and Rep. Stewart L. McKinney (R-Conn.) promised to push for early passage of a similar bill early next year, when it would not get caught in a preadjournment logjam. They predicted victory. But Harris said, "We'll defeat it next year, also."
The measure by Rep. Ronald V. Dellums (D-Calif.) would have repealed a provision of the D.C. home rule charter that prohibits the city from levying any tax on the incomes of commuters.
If passed, city officials had testified that they expected to levy the full D.C. income tax on suburbanites who work in the city, expecting them to take credits against their Maryland or Virginia taxes.
Such a tax, if enacted by the D.C. City Council, would have yielded an estimated $200 million a year for the municipal treasury. Both Maryland and Virginia officials vigorously opposed the tax.
An earlier version of the proposal, introduced by McKinney and discarded before yesterday's vote, would have authorized the city to collect a commuter tax at one-third the level of the D.C. income tax.
Mayor Walter E. Washington, voicing disappointment at the outcome of the vote, said the city has been caught between a substantial decrease in the U.S. payment to the city and the refusal to approve the commuter tax.
The federal payment is the U.S. government's share of the cost of running the city. This year's payment of $276 million is in the process of being cut for next year by Congress to somewhere between $238 million and $264 million.
Rep. Helen Meyner (D-N.J.), in stating opposition to the commuter tax, said she feared that its enactment "might result in (further) cutbacks by Congress in the federal payment."
"With the plethora of problems we face in this region," Rep. Newton I. Steers Jr. (R-Md.) declared, "tax warfare is one we will live without."
Rep. Romano L. Mazzoli (D-Ky.), regarded as a supporter of a commuter tax, switched sides, saying he was afraid the legislation would jeopardize other measures, including congressional voting rights for the District of Columbia now pending in the Senate.
The angriest exchange of the day was between McKinney and Harris. Referring to last week's White House letter to Harris, McKinney remarked, "The fix is in."
Voting for the tax authorization were: Dellums, Fauntroy, Cardiss Collins (D-Ill.), McKinney and Committee Chairman Charles C. Diggs Jr. (D-Mich.), all in person, and Reps. Fortney H. Stark (D-Calif.), Charles A. Whalen Jr. (R-Ohio) and Marc L. Marks (R-Pa., by proxies.)
Voting against were: James R. Mann (D-S.C.), Mazzoli, Harris, Dan Daniel (D-Va.) Meyner, Norman E. D'Amours (D-N.H.) and Robert Daniel (R-Va.), all in person, and Reps. Charles Rose (D-N.C.), Ted Risenhoover (D-Okla.), Douglas Applegate (D-Ohio), Steers and E. Thomas Coleman (R-Mo.), by proxies.
In a related development, Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr. (Ind-Va.) said he plans to propose a permanent ban on a commuter tax in the proposed constitutional amendment that would grant D.C. voting representation in Congress.