Mayor Marion Barry said yesterday that if Congress does not want to make the District a state, D.C. residents should be exempted from paying federal taxes, like Puerto Ricans.
"At least we ought not be paying not to vote," Barry said. "I don't like to pay a bill if I have no say in what happens with the money."
He said later he was not calling for a tax strike, however, but was merely pointing out that the District now has "taxation without representation."
Barry testified yesterday on proposals to make the District of Columbia a state and on proposed changes in a constitution drafted in 1982 by a D.C. Statehood Constitutional Convention.
The controversial constitution, considered radical by many, was approved by District voters in November 1982, and the city officially submitted its petition for statehood in 1983.
D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy, who has introduced statehood legislation, held the hearing yesterday in the House District subcommittee on fiscal affairs and health. All of the witnesses were statehood supporters, and Fauntroy was the only member of Congress who attended the hearing.
By all accounts, statehood has an uphill battle, particularly as long as Republicans control the Senate.
Approval of statehood would give the state of New Columbia two senators and a congressman, as well as full autonomy over its budget and local legislation. Now the city has only one delegate, Fauntroy, who can vote in committee but not on the House floor.
Fauntroy said yesterday that the United States now is the only democratic country in the world in which the citizens of the capital city do not have voting representation in the national legislature. Until two weeks ago, the United States was in company with Brazil, but now the residents of the capital city of Brasilia have been given voting representation, he said.
Barry said yesterday that he opposes giving any District employes the right to strike and that a provision allowing strikes should be eliminated entirely from a draft statehood constitution.
A congressional and city task force toned down the proposed statehood constitution, eliminating some of the more radical provisions and modifying others. A provision giving public employes the right to strike was changed to allow it for "nonessential" employes only.
"They District employes are all essential," Barry said. "I don't support the right of any employe to strike."
District employes now are prohibited from striking.
To make the idea of statehood more palatable to Congress, the special task had spent a year developing proposed revisions in the constitution. These included eliminating guarantees to a job and loans at public expense, the right to abortion, and the right to unorthodox sexual activities.
Both Barry and D.C. City Council Chairman David A. Clarke said revising the constitution was wise and would help keep the controversy over the constitution from hampering the drive for statehood.