by Mark David Richards, PhD, 2003
The District of Columbia, once three cities and two counties, was merged into one area that is composed of more than 120 neighborhoods and 572,000 permanent residents.
DC is responsible for state, county, and city functions.
Congress has exclusive legislative power over DC, and can override the decisions and priorities of DC's locally elected officials. This is usually done during the annual budget process when DC sends its local revenues to Congress and the President.
The DC budget, 74% of which is collected from local sources and taxes, is $6 billion. It pays for nearly all municipal expenses.
Since 1997, after the federal government took over DC's courts and prisons, they assumed responsibility for those costs. The federal government uses all DC services, but exempts itself, foreign embassies, and others from taxes, an estimated loss of $1.2 billion annually. It does not provide a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT).
Those who come to DC to work for Congress pay taxes to their home states-they represent a small portion of the population. Nearly 70 percent of people who work in DC live in the suburbs located in Maryland and Virginia. Congress forbids DC from having a wage or commuter tax, like other jurisdictions have, because representatives from those states are on DC's oversight committees.
In addition to not controlling their local budget, DC citizens have no say in how their federal taxes are used because they have no voting representatives. They pay full federal taxes - higher per capita than all but one state.