Congressman considers D.C. commuter tax

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A high-ranking congressman wants to examine whether D.C. should charge non-residents a commuter tax for working in the District.

Congress wrote in the 1973 District Home Rule Law that a commuter tax would never happen. But this week something unexpected happened at that hearing.

Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, chairman of the committee that oversees the District, said he thought it was time to reconsider.

According to some estimates, the District of Columbia doubles in population during the work day as residents of Maryland, Virginia and beyond commute into the city to earn a living.

District leaders - and many residents - have long embraced the idea of a commuter tax to offset the costs of services, buildings and roads.

"They cost money to build and the people who work here ought to pay for them," says David Bernstein, who lives in and works in the District.

Issa rushed to make clear he doesn't support a commuter tax per se, but says it does deserves scrutiny because D.C. is in a unique position. It's a city without a state, with vast income but where many go home at the end of the day and pay taxes elsewhere.

D.C. resident Tonya Wiggins wishes the city had more money but thinks a commuter tax is unfair.

"I mean it's hard times for everybody, so to put that type of tax on them would just be another impact on their pockets.

"Definitely unfair," says Joe Comizio who works in the District but lives in Vienna and is a Virginia taxpayer. "I would not support that in any way.

Still, he admits the city and all that comes with it makes it easier to make a living.

"I don't think I could make as much money out in Virginia," Comizio says. "I work for a law firm and most of the law firms are here in D.C.

Even city officials who strongly support a commuter tax say they doubt the comments by Congressman Issa will change many minds. After all, it's not just Republicans who oppose a D.C. commuter tax, but both Republicans and Democrats who represent residents of Maryland and Virginia.