Most great nations take pride in their capitals and support them. Not the United States. Capitals as disparate as London and Caracas, Mexico City and Berlin, Canberra and Brasilia receive a third or more of their funding from direct federal support. Washington gets 10 percent of its funding and 90 percent of its headaches from federal sources.
All American states and many cities tax income earned within their borders, whether by residents or commuters. But Congress forbids the District to tax commuters, which eliminates taxes on three-quarters of the income earned in the District.
States and cities also tax real property, but more than half of the District's real property is owned by the federal government, international institutions, foreign embassies or nonprofit organizations, and so it is not taxable.
Three major studies, the most recent by the Government Accountability Office, have weighed the benefits to the District of being the national capital against the burden of supporting an urban infrastructure without normal sources of revenue. The studies all concluded that the District is shortchanged -- anywhere from a half-billion dollars to more than a billion dollars a year.
It's not just a D.C. problem. Because the city is short of funds, capital needs -- the construction and maintenance of infrastructure -- get deferred. So things are decaying, including the roads, bridges and Metro system that transport tourists and commuters into town; the water supply; fire and police services; and the public health support that keeps them and the rest of us safe.
With support from Virginia Reps. Thomas M. Davis III (R), Frank R. Wolf (R) and James P. Moran Jr. (D) and from Maryland Reps. Elijah E. Cummings (D), Albert R. Wynn (D), Steny H. Hoyer (D) and Chris Van Hollen (D), D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) has introduced a bill to establish an annual federal payment of $800 million to offset the restrictions on D.C. revenue. That money could be used only to deal with District's decaying infrastructure, which is exactly the problem for which our high business and personal taxes are inadequate.
It's time for the federal government to pay its fair share, not just for D.C. residents, but for the 470,000 Americans from other jurisdictions who work in Washington and the 20 million who come here each year to see their nation's capital.
-- Richard Suisman
-- Peter Szanton
are founders of the nonprofit civic group Our Nation's Capital.