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On Tax Day, Norton Says No Easy Answers to Taxation Without Representation


Location: Washington, DC

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) issued the following Tax Day statement today, the deadline for Americans to pay federal taxes on their income.

"Today is April 15th and D.C. residents should ask, Why are we paying federal income taxes if we do not have equal representation? I have spent most of my congressional service in a Republican-controlled House that decries taxes, so in 2001 I decided to call their bluff and put in a bill to exempt D.C. residents from federal income taxes until we get voting rights. I confess, I did not intend to move forward on a bill that could have made D.C. a territory that, like the five territories, does not get invaluable state per capita funding for federal programs. Also, if D.C. residents did not pay federal income taxes, D.C. might have to significantly increase local taxes to offset the reduced federal funding. The bluff worked -- no Republicans became cosponsors. On the Democratic side, where most of our friends are, 118 co-sponsored the bill because they have always supported D.C. and me in our various approaches for equal treatment.

"There are steps on the way to statehood -- voting rights and budget autonomy, for example -- but there is only one destination if the goal is complete equality with other Americans, and that is statehood. Today's market, reacting to scarce housing and improved living conditions here, has made the District one of the most expensive cities in the country, especially for housing. That same market, stimulated by a zero federal income tax policy, could escalate the cost of housing and property taxes, and transmit higher costs on goods and services throughout D.C., as well.

"The District is not treated as a state when it comes to our rights and our independence from Congress, but the city is treated as a state in every other way, including in the all-important sphere of federal funding. Unlike the territories, which do not pay federal income taxes, the District gets the same per capita funding as each of the 50 states in all of the federal government's programs. In exchange for not paying federal income taxes, the territories get less federal funding in costly areas, such as Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. In this already high-cost city, residents seem to sense that there are no real short-cuts to freedom and equality, and no free lunch for citizens, particularly when it comes to taxes."

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