The setting was Thursday’s hearing on the D.C. budget by the D.C. subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight, and the eye-popping moment came from Darrell E. Issa (R-California), chairman of the overall committee. Mr. Issa was assuring D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) that he was familiar with the city’s tax structure since he pays local taxes; in fact, he said he pays higher taxes because he can’t claim the homestead exemption afforded to D.C. residents. Basically, Issa told Gray, “those without representation” pay twice as much.
As the mayor of a city that has been denied voting representation in Congress for more than 200 years, Gray seemed dumbfounded.
I know I — watching a live stream of the hearing — was so taken aback by the obtuseness of Issa’s remark that I fired off e-mails to confirm what I had heard (I was assured I was not alone in my incredulity). Has Issa not seen the “Taxation Without Representation” license plates on D.C. vehicles? Has he forgotten the heated debates over the D.C. voting rights bill?
For the record, the District’s homestead deduction is a benefit that reduces the assessed value of residential property if it is occupied as the principal domicile of the taxpayer. One would be hard-pressed to find a city that does not provide something similar to its citizens. What’s unique about D.C. and taxes is that the city is the only place in the nation where people who pay federal taxes are denied a vote in Congress. And what makes the United States unique in the world is that it’s the only democracy that denies residents of the capital city a vote in the national government. Perhaps Gray was only being polite, but I would have loved to hear him tell Issa that he — not to mention 600,000 D.C. residents — know exactly how it feels to be taxed by a government in which you are shut out.
Jo-Ann Armao is associate editorial page editor of the Post. She writes editorials for the newspaper. Previously, she was assistant managing editor for local news and before that was city editor, Virginia editor and Montgomery County reporter.