Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Bills, bills, bills


Photo by drpavloff on Flickr.
Marijuana bill blossoms: It looks like there are enough signatures to put a marijuana legalization bill on the DC ballot in November. One congressman vows to block it, citing safety of children above DC home rule. (WTOP)

Primary results: Democrat Richard Sullivan and Republican David Foster won a special primary on Sunday for the Virginia House. If elected, Foster vows to push for a referendum on the "impractical and unaffordable" Columbia Pike streetcar. (Post)

Dead zebras: The experiment with zebras meant to discourage u-turns across the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes is over. The zebras will be removed and replaced with park-its. (WAMU)

BIDs on roads: A new bill means BIDs could take over some road maintenance in DC, amidst poor 311 response to potholes. Mary Cheh believes that the BIDs can translate success with public spaces to roads. (DCist)

Charter school "cannibalism"?: Plans to open a charter across the street from a comparable public school have led Chancellor Kaya Henderson to call for better coordination in school planning to avoid "cannibalism". (Post)

Another blow: The US House proposed to cut all funding for St. Elizabeths in 2015, further fueling fears that the project will not be completed. But will the surrounding Congress Heights neighborhood actually miss the project if it doesn't happen? (WBJ, City Paper)

Spinning wheels: Are cyclists engaging in more dangerous activities than other road users or is this perception based in a lack of familiarity? Would getting more people on bikes help with this perception? (Gizmodo)

Maglev merits: Japan is looking to build a $90 billion maglev line between Tokyo and Osaka. But are 310 MPH speeds worth the price worth when both cities will be getting smaller when the line opens? (CityLab)

And...: Retail is already changing to meet new demand around Silver Line stations, kicking out some low density businesses. (Post) ... Did construction projects inconvenience drivers in Copenhagen so much that it led to a 5% increase in cycling? (Streetsblog) ... A primary race for the Prince George's County Council was decided by 6 votes. (Post)

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Kelli Lafferty Raboy works as a federal contractor on various projects in transportation planning and management. She loves all things cities, public transit, and rail. She lives in Navy Yard. 

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I love that radio ad about the Silver Line. It comes right out and says your quality of life will improve dramatically riding the Silver Line rather than being stuck in traffic.

by Thayer-D on Jul 8, 2014 9:53 am • linkreport

DC Public Schools and the taxi association, leading the way in circumventing competition. Funny to see the vested interests squirm when you give consumers choice for once (i.e. charters, uber, AirBnb).

by Observer on Jul 8, 2014 9:57 am • linkreport

If BIDs are going to take over road maintenance, will DC start cutting property taxes as the local government sheds services? Nah.

by Alf on Jul 8, 2014 10:02 am • linkreport

We already have quite low property taxes, and they just passed a large income tax cut.

by h st ll on Jul 8, 2014 10:06 am • linkreport

Are cyclists engaging in more dangerous activities than other road users or is this perception based in a lack of familiarity?

Yes.

Re: streetcar referendum,

Such a dumb idea to introduce it in the first place (especially from supporters). Now detractors are just using it to claim that a referendum must happen or else people won't have a say. Nevermind all the work done until now and the fact that authorization for a referendum in the General Assembly would basically be a public opinion poll and actually be powerless to change anything.

by drumz on Jul 8, 2014 10:06 am • linkreport

Are 310 MPH speeds worth the price worth when both cities will be getting smaller when the line opens?

Yes, full stop. Technological advances can't be driven solely by population growth. Nor should we be halting infrastructure investment for any reason, really. A few less people might be using a crappy road? That's no reason to leave it crappy.

I mean, good lord, how small-minded. Not everything is fully explained and justified by a strict cost-benefit ratio.

by LowHeadways on Jul 8, 2014 10:11 am • linkreport

And you think they could have found a guy better suited to interview about some of the negative impacts of the silver line than the guy who owns 13 other stores all around the region, including Old Town.

by drumz on Jul 8, 2014 10:38 am • linkreport

Re: Pennsylvania Avenue Bike Lanes

Has DC considered the fences that Beijing uses? The fences do not appear to be attached to the ground (easy removal for events) and strongly discourage vehicular access to the bike lane. It would definitely be an impediment to illegal U-turns as well.

Here is an example: http://blog.trick-bike.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/img_5129.jpg

by Rob on Jul 8, 2014 10:40 am • linkreport

Drumz

re the cost of the streetcar has risen 140% since it was originally "sold" to the public, and we are still ~3 years before breaking ground on it which means, as we all know, there will be additional overages.

Arlington is doing their absolute best to try to control the story, comissioning someone else (HR&A) to do another study on the streetcar less than a year after their first "study" didn't tell the story the Arlington Board wanted to tell.

Then they spend even more money on this cute PR campaign to drum up support for a project that is suffering badly in the PR department. What jurisdiction does that? Using taxpaer money to basically campaign for your job?

And H street homeowners don't pay BID taxes, and the commercial tax rate is certainly not the cheapest in the region. BID's already do the work that the city should be doing, but if the city is looking to push off even more of their responsibility onto the BID's, then the city will have to cut the commercial tax rate. No way around it.

Lastly, DC roads are in pretty atrocious shape, worst than I've seen them in more than a decade when Williams, then Fenty went on a repaving binge. DDOT's yearly budget for road paving is a pretty measly 22 million dollars. Considering DDOT has 1,400 miles of roads to maintain, and that the District has enjoyed more than a billion dollars of budget surpluses the past 4 fiscal years, it is embarrasing that DC can't find a little more money to up the pace of the improvements.

by Kane on Jul 8, 2014 10:54 am • linkreport

What jurisdiction does that? Using taxpaer money to basically campaign for your job?

All of them. Metro is running commercials for the Silver Line. I see ads all the time for the 495 HOT lanes. There was a huge PR push for the ACA.

by drumz on Jul 8, 2014 11:01 am • linkreport

New world's tallest buildings will be totally environmentally friendly and energy self-sufficient.

 photo d646c8c3-fb7d-448d-819d-05af4cf9310c.jpg

http://www.iflscience.com/technology/these-skyscrapers-will-clean-pollution-surrounding-water-and-air

by Tom Coumaris on Jul 8, 2014 11:08 am • linkreport

Are 310 MPH speeds worth the price ...

I can't afford Accela, and can't even imagine what Amtrak would charge for a 310 MPH train.

Amtrak has an issue with ticket prices. I travel frequently to the Northeast. I just booked a round-trip via USAir from DCA to BDL (Hartford) for about $120. The best price I could get with Amtrak for a similar trip, even with the AAA discount, is about $200.

by kob on Jul 8, 2014 11:18 am • linkreport

Drumz,

Metro is an independant transit authority. While ~40% of its operations are taxpayer funded, it isn't run or operated by the Board or Council of any of the jurisdictions it serves.

And the HOT lanes are primarily being funded by private investment. Is the Arlington streetcar being funded by private investment? No? Apples and walnuts comparison...

by Kane on Jul 8, 2014 11:20 am • linkreport

"MetroWay" in Alexandria is coming! http://www.wmata.com/about_metro/news/PressReleaseDetail.cfm?ReleaseID=5738 Press release includes photo of the bus, which must be onsite now.

by JDC on Jul 8, 2014 11:21 am • linkreport

The decision to build the HOT lanes, as well as the Silver Line, were public policy decisions of the jurisdictions. Had FFX opposed either, they would not have been built. Public money was used to explain their purpose, and that undoubted effected the debate.

The question is can the govt use public money to explain the benefits of a public policy, one that is already approved by the local govt.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 8, 2014 11:23 am • linkreport

And the answer is "yes, absolutely". VDOT (and pretty much every gov't agency with more than 5 people) has social media outreach and a youtube channel.

The only reason for this controversy is that people don't like the streetcar and are looking for anything that sticks.

by drumz on Jul 8, 2014 11:26 am • linkreport

@kob: Amtrak has an issue with train capacity in the Northeast Corridor. As a result, the price (based on the supply they're able to provide and the demand they experience) is significantly higher than the bus, and in some cases higher than flying (like when you're going beyond NYC from DC).

by Gray on Jul 8, 2014 11:35 am • linkreport

@"Mary Cheh believes that the BIDs can translate success with public spaces to roads. "

Cheh is dishing out money everywhere, but now she wants someone else to do the job her DDOT should be doing. Passing the buck...

@Alf

No way! DC Council will find another way to waste our money.

@ h st ll

When this "large income tax cut" is implemented, we'll still have far higher taxes than most states.

by Brett on Jul 8, 2014 11:42 am • linkreport

The House, under current control, proposes all kinds of wacky things. Taking them seriously is a bigger problem.

by Rich on Jul 8, 2014 11:57 am • linkreport

@ h st II & Brett -

Your comment made me google just that, it turns out that the DC property tax rate is already lower than any of the surrounding 11 jurisdictions at $.85 - not including the homestead exemption (which lowers it further).

That said, I suspect many DC property values are higher than those in Loudoun county, so the $ amount paid may be higher in the District.

http://cfo.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/ocfo/publication/attachments/Tax%20Rates%20and%20Burdens%202011%20Washington-Metro.pdf
http://www.citylab.com/work/2013/02/do-dc-residents-pay-more-taxes-their-neighbors/4629/

by chuck on Jul 8, 2014 12:46 pm • linkreport

I wasn't going to vote for marijuana legalization, but then some jerk from MD started trying to tell me how my city should be run. Now I'm definitely voting for it.

by Jon on Jul 8, 2014 12:46 pm • linkreport

I can't afford Accela, and can't even imagine what Amtrak would charge for a 310 MPH train.

Probably the highest price the market would support. Which is probably not too much more than what Acela charges now.

by David C on Jul 8, 2014 12:47 pm • linkreport

@kob: Amtrak has an issue with train capacity in the Northeast Corridor. As a result, the price (based on the supply they're able to provide and the demand they experience) is significantly higher than the bus, and in some cases higher than flying (like when you're going beyond NYC from DC).

Yup. Any maglev system between DC and NY (there is one being proposed, and it would be backed by the same company as the Tokyo-Osaka line- Amtrak's probably not going to be involved) would require a new Hudson River tunnel, and dedicated track. Right now, there's only one ancient rail tunnel under the Hudson, handling not just Amtrak traffic but also a lot of commuter trains as well. It's at capacity, and there's a lot of pent up demand. It's a mess, and there desperately needs to be a larger and more modern one built so everybody can run more trains and reduce prices dramatically. Incidentally, Governor Christie killed precisely that project after it was already underway. You can blame him for the current mess, but a maglev wouldn't be affected.

by Zeus on Jul 8, 2014 12:50 pm • linkreport

When this "large income tax cut" is implemented, we'll still have far higher taxes than most states.

Actually, we're 20th and 40th is only about 1% more in taxes than DC. So not far higher. A little higher - primarily because of the lack of a commuter tax.

by David C on Jul 8, 2014 12:52 pm • linkreport

@Brett: DC's income tax rates are not "far higher" than most states. Under the current tax regime, in fact, taxes are lower than the national averages for the bottom 40% of taxpayers. For the middle 20%, we're 1.6 percentage points higher than the national average, and for the upper income categories, we're less than 1 point higher than the national average.
http://www.itep.org/pdf/whopaysreport.pdf
Also, our sales tax rate is lower than most states.

by alurin on Jul 8, 2014 1:04 pm • linkreport

@kob:
I just checked and right now, Amtrak has fares between Washington and Hartford for as low as $63.

Right now you can get a $63 fare on
July 22 - Train 190
July 23 - Train 190, Train 94
July 24 - Train 190
July 26 - Train 146
July 28 - Train 190
July 29 - Train 148, Train 190, Train 170, Train 94
July 30 - Train 190, Train 170
July 31 - Train 190

Additionally, there are $88 fares on 19 dates in July (including tomorrow, if you wanted to travel then).

In fact, the highest fare listed is $172 for the remainder of July.

Amtrak charges so much because the trains run pretty full (especially at their maximum load point between Newark and New York). If they couldn't sell the seats at those prices, they wouldn't. But people will pay those prices.

The trick is to book early, and be flexible.

Amtrak desperately needs more capacity in the corridor. One of the most needed projects (in order to increase inter-city capacity) is the construction of 2 new tunnels under the Hudson.

Until that happens, train fares are going to be high. Unless, of course, demand drops, but it's showing no signs of that.

by Matt' Johnson on Jul 8, 2014 1:11 pm • linkreport

So what would be good software to create MertroRail like Map? I'm completely new at this but I want to try making one for a popular bus route.

by Tom S. on Jul 8, 2014 1:45 pm • linkreport

@Matt That's all well and good, but Train 190 departs Union Station at 3:15 AM. Train 170 leaves at 4:52 AM. That leaves exactly 4 departures between July 22 and 31 for $63.

I'm not blaming you for this or anything, but it's not incorrect to say that in general Amtrak is pretty insanely expensive, especially for the speeds you pay for. That doesn't stop me from booking occasional weekend travel to New York 3 months in advance, but it's clear that tickets, in general, are quite high. (By comparison, I just booked one-way tickets from Paris to Lyon in September. It takes two hours to go 290 miles - 70 miles more than DC to New York - and they were 50 euros each.)

If Amtrak can get Gateway up and running, we'll eventually be better off than we would have with ARC, which only had terminal tracks at Penn (and was thus useless for Amtrak through-running). On the other hand, if Gateway dies and we build nothing, we will be utterly screwed when one of the existing Hudson tubes goes.

by LowHeadways on Jul 8, 2014 2:11 pm • linkreport

But are 310 MPH speeds worth the price worth when both cities will be getting smaller when the line opens?

Japan has a massive aging population. They will be dying in the coming decades, but are not the target for the line. So, this population argument is not relevant. Also, Tokyo has a population that makes NYC look like a village. Osaka proper is only a few million, but it a huge regional center, with very fast shikansen connections to Kyoto, Kobe and further south.

by Jasper on Jul 8, 2014 2:29 pm • linkreport

@LowHeadways:
And there were far more departures in the $88 range, which is still cheaper than the airport rigmarole.

by Matt' Johnson on Jul 8, 2014 2:31 pm • linkreport

@David C

The link you gave is about total tax burden not specific to income tax.

So yes, DC's income tax rates are still higher than most states. There are only 7 states with higher top rates, for example:

http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts/displayafact.cfm?Docid=406

While "far higher" is obviously relative, not including the 8 states without income taxes, DC's top rates exceed 14 states by 15% or more.

And not even to mention that we still have one of the highest corporate tax rates...

by Brett on Jul 8, 2014 3:01 pm • linkreport

"Also, Tokyo has a population that makes NYC look like a village"

Its only like a difference of 20% in total population. That sentence makes it sound like Tokyo has a population of 500 million.

by Another Nick on Jul 8, 2014 3:02 pm • linkreport

Brett,

1. The original claim was not explicitly about income tax.

2. Taxes are largely fungible. Some of our tax rates are higher than in other states. Some are lower. What specifically about high income taxes and high corporate taxes is bothersome? Would high property taxes and high sales tax be preferable?

3. In DC one only pays state income taxes. In many states there is also a county or city income tax. The link does not account for that. So it's an apples to oranges comparison.

by David C on Jul 8, 2014 3:39 pm • linkreport

David C,

1. Not sure what "the original claim" was, just that my original claim had to do with income taxes. Comparing the entire tax burden ignores the fact that most people in DC do not own real estate and are not subject to property taxes.

2. DC is maintaining a large surplus and is spending like crazy on unnecessary projects. That's what's bothersome about high income/corporate taxes.

And no income, corporate or property taxes would be preferable.

3. Perhaps in some places, there is a local income tax rate, but, even with that considered, DC still ranks high in terms of income tax burden.

by Brett on Jul 8, 2014 4:13 pm • linkreport

Original claim = "we'll still have far higher taxes than most states."

DC is maintaining a large surplus

Actually, DC has maxed out their debt limit.

spending like crazy on unnecessary projects.

Spending is separate issue from taxing.

And no income, corporate or property taxes would be preferable.

So then, no government? Anarchy?

even with (local taxes) considered, DC still ranks high in terms of income tax burden.

That can't be proven until local taxes are included in any sort of ranking.

by David C on Jul 8, 2014 4:23 pm • linkreport

@David C

Haha. That's of course taken out of context. In context:

"When this 'large income tax cut' is implemented, we'll still have far higher taxes than most states."

"Spending is separate issue from taxing."

Yet taxing is done to raise revenue for expenditures.

"So then, no government? Anarchy?"

Wow! Income, corporate and property taxes are just three types of taxes. I didn't include sales tax, use tax, luxury tax, or all the other ways governments generate revenue like moving violations, fines, tolls, permit fees, license fees, lotteries, gambling, gas tax, cigarette tax, alcohol tax, etc.

And what do less taxes have to do with anarchy?

"That can't be proven until local taxes are included in any sort of ranking."

See the Tax Foundation's "Annual State-Local Tax Burden Ranking."

by Brett on Jul 8, 2014 5:29 pm • linkreport

@"Actually, DC has maxed out their debt limit."

No not yet, and DC also ended 2013 with a $321m surplus and has a $1.75b rainy day fund.

by Brett on Jul 8, 2014 5:39 pm • linkreport

That's of course taken out of context.

No, it's not. If income taxes were intended, then that's what should have been said. I took the claim exactly as written, so it was confusing and poorly stated if something eles was meant.

Yet taxing is done to raise revenue for expenditures.

It is, but if we switch to all sales tax, it's not like we'll suddenly be better at spending money.

I didn't include....

Ok, so then the problem is not that DC's income tax is higher than other state's but that DC has an income tax at all? DC has the most progressive tax system in the country, thanks to the high income tax. I think that's a good thing. Not everyone values that.

And what do less taxes have to do with anarchy?

It seemed to be an argument against all taxes. Because never has a method of preferred taxing been mentioned.

See the Tax Foundation's "Annual State-Local Tax Burden Ranking."

Right. Again. DC is in 20th place and less than 1% away from the bottom half. But that isn't just income taxes. That's all taxes. The claim was that "DC still ranks high in terms of income tax burden." It's easy to see why I keep getting confused about what kinds of taxes we're talking about when others keep confusing them.

by David C on Jul 8, 2014 11:11 pm • linkreport

@ Tom S

To create a professional looking transit map on your own, the best way would be to use a program like Adobe Illustrator. There are, of course, open source alternatives to Adobe, but they may or may not have the features you need to make the maps you want.

The Transit Maps tumblr is a great resource for getting started on making your own transit maps:

http://transitmaps.tumblr.com/tagged/tutorial

by ndw_dc on Jul 9, 2014 9:55 am • linkreport

DC also ended 2013 with a $321m surplus and has a $1.75b rainy day fund.

A rainy day fund seems prudent, no?

by David C on Jul 9, 2014 10:12 am • linkreport

Old meme: DC govt is terrible, its incompetent and nearly bankrupt
New meme: DC govt is terrible, its spending a lot of money on big projects and running big surpluses at the same time.

Kind of like this other transition
Old meme: DC is horrible, its all crack dealers and prostituted and lines at the DMV and decay
New meme: DC is horrible, its all arrogant hipsters driving out the poor and black

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 9, 2014 10:20 am • linkreport

1. Since DC ranks in the middle for both sales taxes and income taxes, and is in fact a low tax jurisdiction for people in the bottom half of the income distribution... the only way in which the claim that we have "far higher taxes" than other states could be held to be true is if we were talking about taxes on the top income band. It is true that the top marginal rate in DC is high, compared to other states, and the tax burden for very high income people (literally the 1%) is higher than the national average. But that strikes me as a good thing.
2. Running surplus and having a big rainy day funds are also good things. One day, and it may be soon, the economy is going to tank, and we'll be glad to have that money in the bank. That;s called prudent financial management. Otherwise, when the next recession comes, you have to cut services and lay people off, thus making the recession worse. That sort of pro-cyclic fiscal policy is precisely why the 2007-2009 recession has had such a long-term damaging impact on the economy.
3. We are not spending nearly enough on big projects. The Transportation system, to take the issue most near and dear to people's hearts here, is inadequate. We need bus lanes, streetcars, metro lines, commuter rail, you name it.

by alurin on Jul 9, 2014 11:17 am • linkreport

@AWalkerIntheCity

"No, it's not. If income taxes were intended, then that's what should have been said."

LOL, it's really not that serious. But, yes, it was said in the preceding sentence and not repeated to avoid repetitiveness.

"It is, but..."

Exactly.

"Ok, so then the problem is not that DC's income tax is higher than other state's but that DC has an income tax at all? "

You asked me what was "preferable" and I told you. It's OK to have an opposing viewpoint.

"DC has the most progressive tax system in the country, thanks to the high income tax. I think that's a good thing."

That's not true. And I don't agree it's a good thing, but to each his own.

"DC is in 20th place and less than 1% away from the bottom half."

No, that's 1 percentage point or more, not 1%. They're not the same. And it doesn't change the fact that DC's income tax rates, with the 20th highest total income tax burden, are as I said, higher than "most states."

by Brett on Jul 9, 2014 2:46 pm • linkreport

I posted nothing about taxes.

Perhaps time for some herbal tea?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 9, 2014 2:54 pm • linkreport

Sorry, that should've been directed @David C!

by Brett on Jul 9, 2014 2:57 pm • linkreport

That's not true.

According to this measure, it is. DC is the only "state" where the poorest 20% pay a lower percentage of their income in taxes than the top 1% do.

by David C on Jul 9, 2014 9:08 pm • linkreport

@Brett: If your actual complaint is that tax rates in DC are too high FOR WEALTHY PEOPLE just say that.

by alurin on Jul 10, 2014 9:59 am • linkreport

@David C

That doesn't mean DC's tax rates are more progressive, considering DC has the country's highest poverty rate, which is almost double the national average.

by Brett on Jul 10, 2014 10:01 am • linkreport

actually whats relevant to Daves point is not the poverty rate, but the average income of the poor. If the average income of the poor is higher in DC, and DC had the same tax system as other states, we would expect the poor in DC to pay MORE in taxes as a percent of their income, regardless of the poverty RATE.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 10, 2014 10:07 am • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity

The poverty rate in the 48 states+DC are all based on the same federal threshold. So the bottom 20% in DC are actually poorer than the bottom 20% in New Hampshire, for example.

by Brett on Jul 10, 2014 10:16 am • linkreport

DC's bottom 20% is actually about in the middle of states:
http://scorecard.assetsandopportunity.org/2013/measure/state-income-quintiles-acs

That's the same data sounds as in the MJ article.

by MLD on Jul 10, 2014 10:56 am • linkreport

Is there another measure of progressive and regressive taxes that is better, and is there a ranking of states based on that measure?

by David C on Jul 10, 2014 11:26 am • linkreport

@MLD

It ranks in the bottom half (of course the cost of living in DC outranks most states) and also has the wealthiest top 20%, showing inequality in DC greatest.

@David C

Surely one could look at actual state tax rates based on income and see that Vermont, for example, taxes 3.55% up to $35K vs 8.95% over 388K. DC, by contrast taxes 6% from 10K to 40K vs 8.5% for anything over 40K.

Vermont's system is definitely more beneficial to the poor and middle class than DC's.

by Brett on Jul 10, 2014 12:29 pm • linkreport

Brett,

That's only looking at income tax. I'm talking about all taxes. And I'm including EITC.

The real income tax rate for the bottom 20% in DC when the EITC is included is -3.6%. In Vermont it's -0.9%.

The bottom 20% in Vermont have a much higher tax burden than the bottom 20% in DC do, when one considers all taxes. It does my little good to pay a low income tax if I have to pay the savings and then some back in a high sales tax.

So, only looking at income tax rates, and not consider tax credits or other taxes doesn't seem to be a better way to measure which state is the most progressive. It seems more like willfully ignoring very relevant facts.

by David C on Jul 10, 2014 12:40 pm • linkreport

@David C

"That's only looking at income tax. I'm talking about all taxes."

And that's precisely why the link you posted is so misleading as to how "progressive" a state's tax rates are.

Again, including property taxes in the total tax burden ignores the fact that most people in DC don't own real estate, especially the poorest 20%, and are not subject to property taxes. And DC's homeownership rate is FAR lower than EVERY state. Plus, some states have tax credits that other states don't have, etc.

It seems more like willfully cooking up numbers to me.

by Brett on Jul 10, 2014 12:53 pm • linkreport

In DC the property tax hits the bottom 20% at 3% of their income. It hits the top 1% at only 1.5%. So ignoring that, for whatever reason one would do that, makes DC look even more progressive. Without property taxes:

Bottom 20% Top 1%
DC 3.2% 4.9%
VT 4.4% 5.2%

including property taxes in the total tax burden ignores the fact that most people in DC don't own real estate

It's not ignored at all. I'm looking at the total amount of people's income that they spend on all kinds of state taxes.
That includes property taxes.

Plus, some states have tax credits that other states don't have, etc.

Right. That's all in there. What isn't considered is local taxes - of which DC has none, but other localities do.

Why would we ignore property taxes in a discussion of tax burden? If we remove all taxes except property taxes does that drop our tax burden down to zero? Would that mean that the wealthy are paying the same tax burden as the poor? That doesn't make any sense at all.

What other taxes should we ignore when comparing tax burdens by class?

by David C on Jul 10, 2014 1:05 pm • linkreport

It ranks in the bottom half (of course the cost of living in DC outranks most states) and also has the wealthiest top 20%, showing inequality in DC greatest.

LOL. Yes, I suppose 23 out of 51 is technically the "bottom half." It is also pretty much in the middle. But you implied that DC's bottom 20% was among the poorest because of our poverty rate. It's not - DC's bottom 20% is exactly at the national average according to that chart. DC's bottom 20% is poorer than the bottom 20% in New Hampshire, but not poorer than many other states'.

And that's precisely why the link you posted is so misleading as to how "progressive" a state's tax rates are.
What's misleading about it? It takes into account all taxes people pay - seems comprehensive to me, not misleading.

Again, including property taxes in the total tax burden ignores the fact that most people in DC don't own real estate, especially the poorest 20%, and are not subject to property taxes.
People who rent are also subject to property taxes, in that property taxes are passed on to them in their rent. Landlords don't just eat those costs. In fact, in DC renters might even have a higher burden relative to their home's value because homeowners in DC get a discount on their property taxes in the form of the homestead deduction. (another benefit that tips the scale against the poor!)

There is a whole lot of information on the methodology that goes into these things here:
http://www.itep.org/about/itep_tax_model_simple.php

by MLD on Jul 10, 2014 1:11 pm • linkreport


@David C

"Bottom 20% Top 1%"

So now you're comparing the top 1% and not the top 20%.

Either way it's misleading, because again, DC's top earners are the wealthiest and inequality is highest.

"I'm looking at the total amount of people's income that they spend on all kinds of state taxes."

I'll be more clear this time. The fact that most DC residents don't pay any property but most people pay property taxes in EVERY other state, provides for an unfair comparison as to total tax burden. That's why your link is misleading (Not even to mention that property tax rates have nothing to do with income).

"That's all in there."

If a state has a federal tax credit and another doesn't, it's not a fair comparison as to which state's tax rates are more progressive.

"Why would we ignore property taxes in a discussion of tax burden? "

LOL. This only became a discussion of total tax burden when it was derailed as such. My original comment was in response to a claim about some supposedly "large income tax cut."

by Brett on Jul 10, 2014 1:26 pm • linkreport

LOL. This only became a discussion of total tax burden when it was derailed as such. My original comment was in response to a claim about some supposedly "large income tax cut."
You said:
"When this "large income tax cut" is implemented, we'll still have far higher taxes than most states."

Looks like you said "taxes" not "income taxes." And if you're talking about tax burden don't you care about all taxes?

by MLD on Jul 10, 2014 1:47 pm • linkreport

now u're comparing the top 1% and not the top 20%.

When was I doing otherwise? But looking at the top 20% again makes DC look even more progressive. 6.2% to 8.0% for DC, 8.2% to 8.2% for VT.

Either way it's misleading, because again, DC's top earners are the wealthiest and inequality is highest.

I don't see what that has to do with the relative tax burden of either group.

The fact that most DC residents don't pay any property but most people pay property taxes in EVERY other state, provides for an unfair comparison as to total tax burden.

That is not a fact for starters. And what is relevant is not how each state raises tax revenue, but who they choose to tax to do so. So that some states get more from property tax then DC does is irrelevant. Texas has no income tax. Oregon has no sales tax. Alaska gets oil revenue taxes. Nevada gets gambling taxes. Etc... But all states tax. And those taxes fall unevenly on people based on wealth and income. In DC the difference between the tax burden of the poor is and the tax burden of the wealthy is negative (and it is the only state for which that is true) making it the most progressive in the country.

If a state has a federal tax credit and another doesn't, it's not a fair comparison as to which state's tax rates are more progressive.

Uh...OK. Where is a federal tax credit coming into play?

This only became a discussion of total tax burden when it was derailed as such.

True. But regardless, that's the discussion we're having.

I claimed that "DC has the most progressive tax system in the country". "That's not true." was the response.

If the truth of my original claim is no longer in question, then we can move on to DC's large income tax cut. Which is, in fact, a large income tax cut.

by David C on Jul 10, 2014 1:47 pm • linkreport

Not even to mention that property tax rates have nothing to do with income

No, but they are related to wealth. And we aren't just talking about income taxes here. Or at least I'm not.

by David C on Jul 10, 2014 1:48 pm • linkreport

Im confused - what does this have to do with BID's doing road repairs? Or even the question of whether BIDs doing road repairs should be offset by a cut in property taxes?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 10, 2014 1:50 pm • linkreport

@MLD

We already addressed that earlier. No need to nitpick again.

@David C

"When was I doing otherwise?"

LOL. This is getting ridiculous. The chart you referenced compares top 20% vs bottom 20%.

"I don't see what that has to do with the relative tax burden of either group."

That's the problem, and why I guess they're right when they say you can make statistics say anything you want.

"That is not a fact for starters. "

It's indeed a fact that most DC residents don't pay property taxes. Homeownership rate is far lower here than any other state.

"So that some states get more from property tax then DC does is irrelevant. "

It's very relevant if you're comparing each state resident's total tax burden when most Washingtonians don't pay property taxes (because they don't own their own home), unlike in every other state.

"Texas has no income tax."

As well as Florida, Alaska and others. Precisely why the link you posted is misleading.

"Where is a federal tax credit coming into play?"
DC offers a refundable EITC of 40% of federal when a state like Louisiana offers only 5% and some other states nothing at all.

"then we can move on to DC's large income tax cut. Which is, in fact, a large income tax cut."

"Large" is of course relative, so no that statement is not a fact.

@AWalkerInTheCity

One can easily look at the first few comments and see (as well as my first comments, which were on topic until derailed yet again). ;)

by Brett on Jul 10, 2014 2:38 pm • linkreport

It's indeed a fact that most DC residents don't pay property taxes.

It all depends on how one defines it.

"Renters do not escape property taxes. A portion of the property tax on rental property is passed through to renters in the form of higher rent — and these taxes represent a much larger share of income for poor families than for the wealthy. This adds to the regressivity of the property tax"

by David C on Jul 10, 2014 3:26 pm • linkreport

@David C

LOL, that's really stretching it. But the problem is the amount of monthly rent is not reflected in the total tax burden!

by Brett on Jul 10, 2014 3:41 pm • linkreport

It's not really a problem, because the percentage of people paying the property tax doesn't really matter. What matters is that the relative tax burden in DC is more progressive than anywhere else. If this is because of lower home ownership, it doesn't make it less true.

by David C on Jul 10, 2014 4:56 pm • linkreport

Also, I try not to tell people when something they've said is LOL funny, because I think it comes off as rude. No one wants someone to laugh in their face. Perhaps that's something to consider.

by David C on Jul 10, 2014 4:59 pm • linkreport

@David C

"It's not really a problem, because the percentage of people paying the property tax doesn't really matter. "

LOL...If you're claiming that the bottom 20% pay less total taxes in DC than anywhere else because DC's tax system is the "most progressive," and since DC's bottom 20% are less likely to pay property taxes than elsewhere, then the homeownership rate does matter very much.

by Brett on Jul 10, 2014 6:29 pm • linkreport

claiming that the bottom 20% pay less total taxes in DC than anywhere else because DC's tax system is the "most progressive," and since DC's bottom 20% are less likely to pay property taxes than elsewhere, then the homeownership rate does matter very much.

No it doesn't. For several reasons.

1. If many people in "DC don't own real estate, especially the poorest 20%" then the choice to tax real estate, instead of something else, is a choice to tax the wealthy over the poor - i.e. a choice to be more progressive. It would be like taxing yachts. A tax on yachts is progressive. So it would be part of the reason why DC's taxes are more progressive, but the low yacht ownership among the poor doesn't diminish from the progressivness of the tax system or create a false comparison with high yacht ownership states.

2. But DC's property taxes are not progressive, they're regressive. As I noted above "In DC the property tax hits the bottom 20% at 3% of their income. It hits the top 1% at only 1.5%. So ignoring that, for whatever reason one would do that, makes DC look even more progressive." If we look at all taxes in every state excluding property, DC's tax system is still one of the most progressive - if not the most progressive.

3. If State A chose to get 100% of its revenue from tax income and State B chose to get 100% of its revenue from a property tax, wouldn't we still be able to compare which state's tax system is more progressive? or would we have to ignore State B's entire tax system because it's property tax based and thus come to the conclusion that everyone in the state has the same tax burden - 0%?

4. This seems to be an argument that we can't compare the tax systems of states to determine which is or is not most progressive because each state is different. Is that what is being claimed? If not, which state DOES have the most progressive tax system? Perhaps we could start there.

by David C on Jul 10, 2014 9:24 pm • linkreport

@David

1. If you're comparing DC to other states based on total tax burden, which includes property taxes, then it's simply an unfair comparison since DC is the only "state" where most people don't pay property taxes. "Choice" is completely irrelevant.

2. "But DC's property taxes are not progressive." Who said they were? But, it's another good example why it's misleading to make a claim that DC's tax system is the most "progressive" using a chart that compares total tax burden, which includes property taxes.

4. "This seems to be an argument that we can't compare..."

One can compare states' progressive income taxes, which show that DC does not have the most progressive system.

by Brett on Jul 11, 2014 10:28 am • linkreport

an unfair comparison

It's unfair to compare the way states tax their citizens by looking at how they tax their citizens?

"Choice" is completely irrelevant.

No. It's the whole point. How states choose to raise revenue defines how progressive they are. The kind of tax matters. The fairness of a tax system depends primarily on how much that state relies on each type of tax.

it's misleading to make a claim that DC's tax system is the most "progressive" using a chart that compares total tax burden, which includes property taxes.

It's not misleading. It would be misleading to not include property taxes, since that is a major part of the tax burden.

One can compare states' progressive income taxes, which show that DC does not have the most progressive system.

One could. But that has nothing to do with my claim. The one that was refuted. My claim was about total tax burden. And in DC poor people pay a lower percentage of their income in taxes than the wealthy do. No thanks to the property tax.

Of course, if we compare JUST income tax. DC is STILL perhaps the most progressive state in the country.

The Bottom 20% in DC pay -3.6%. The top 20% pay 4.9%. The top 1% pay 5.9%. That's a difference of 8.5% to 9.5%. Most states don't come close to that.

So, again, I'll ask which state DOES have the most progressive tax system? And which has the most progressive income tax system? If I'm so wrong, perhaps knowing the right answer would help.

by David C on Jul 11, 2014 10:55 am • linkreport

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