For Colbert King to link street crime to the D.C. Council's tax cuts is claptrap [op-ed, June 26].
The District imposes higher taxes on its residents than any state. It spends more per pupil on schools and has more police officers relative to the population than any other major city. Yet it arguably has the worst schools and public services and the highest murder rate.
For years the District has been hemorrhaging business and residents to the suburbs. One reason for this is the city's noncompetitive fiscal regime. Anyone who doubts this has not talked to a real estate agent. Once settled here, of course, people may be reluctant to move. But many newcomers who find out about D.C. taxes opt to live in the suburbs.
The report of the D.C. Tax Revision Commission does not address the question of prospective city residents who locate in the suburbs at least in part because of high D.C. taxes. Moreover, it reveals a sharp decline (except in the $100,000-$500,000 bracket) in the number of D.C. taxpayers in the Married Joint Filing Separately category that in 1995 constituted 8 percent of taxpayers but 26.8 percent of total tax liability. These are the people whose spending generates jobs and income for others and whom the District needs if the city's tax base is to be restored.
Mr. King may abhor the notion that someone might realize a long-term capital gain -- even though nearly half of American families now own common stocks. Yet D.C. taxes such gains as ordinary income -- at 9 1/2 percent, or nearly half the federal rate. Perhaps he approves of the 10 percent sales tax (only 8.75 percent in New York City) on all prepared food, restaurants, cafeterias and convenience stores, but this regressive tax is particularly hard on the poor and elderly with fixed incomes.
The serious and endemic problems of the city's relatively large underclass that Mr. King invokes will not be solved by throwing more money at it or by continuing to impose inordinately high taxes on the relatively small number of D.C. residents who are actually paying them. The D.C. Council finally recognized this point. Unfortunately, its proposals have been watered down to the point that they are largely symbolic.
Those who oppose lower taxes in the District should take on the real culprit, Congress, which will not even consider a commuter tax, thereby giving a free ride to the 70 percent of those who earn their living in the District but pay no income tax to the city.