- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 2, 2003

ANNAPOLIS — D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said yesterday at a regional summit with Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Virginia Gov. Mark Warner that he recently met with the two governors for three hours to push for a commuter tax.

“There is a healthy disagreement on the issue,” Mr. Williams said at the summit, just the second in 12 years involving leaders of the three jurisdictions.

D.C. officials have complained for years that people who work in the city but live in Maryland and Virginia should help pay for roads and other infrastructure costs.

When neither state agreed to reimburse the city, Mr. Williams, the D.C. Council and residents filed a federal lawsuit in July.

If approved, a commuter tax would allow the District to impose a levy that would bring in $1.4 billion from the states.

More than 70 percent of the personal income earned in the District goes to nonresidents so the D.C. government must impose higher taxes on its residents to keep the city running, according to the lawsuit.

Mr. Williams, a Democrat, said the tax money is essential to the city economy and that he raises the issue “every time I am at any meeting.”

Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, and Mr. Warner, a Democrat, declined to comment yesterday on the tax.

Mr. Warner said in July that the state opposed the tax and that he would oppose every effort — legal or legislative — to impose it. Mr. Ehrlich also said this summer that he opposes the tax.

Officials in Fairfax and Prince William counties also opposed the tax, and the Montgomery County Council has followed by unanimously rejecting a resolution that would have required residents working in the District to pay the tax.

However, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, a Democrat, has taken a different stance from the County Council, saying he was disappointed by the lawsuit but would support a long-standing proposal to give the District some part of the federal income tax paid by commuters.

The tax appeared to be the only tense issue among Mr. Ehrlich, Mr. Warner and Mr. Williams, who vowed to work together on tourism and with Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge on a plan for the national capital region.

Among the proposals brought up at the meeting was to bring showcase events such as the U.S. Open tennis championship to the area.

“We’re all one market when it comes to the tourism world,” Mr. Williams said. “We can get a lot more mileage out of working together than from working separately.”

Mr. Ehrlich acknowledged the region “never had a shot” at winning a bid for the Super Bowl in 2008, but said they have signed a letter of support to bring the U.S. Open to the region and that they will pursue “any major event.”

To promote the region, the men shot a commercial outside the State House before the meeting. They may do commercials on the history of the region.

Mr. Warner won support for his plan to start a certificate program that shows an employee has basic proficiency in reading and math.

“The mayor and I are very excited,” Mr. Ehrlich said. “It’s an exciting idea.”

The men also said top priorities include meeting the Environmental Protection Agency’s new clean air standards and making water treatment plants comply with the federal laws.

Mr. Warner and Mr. Ehrlich will meet next week to discuss the health of the Chesapeake Bay, which they say is crucial to the region’s future.

The men also said no more bridges will be built over the Potomac River.

Mr. Ehrlich said they are also working with federal agents to stop gang violence, which he attributed to the “unending demand for drugs.”

“These kind of sessions are long overdue,” Mr. Warner said. Virginia will host the next meeting of the three leaders in the spring.

At the first summit, held last spring, Mr. Ehrlich said he would fully fund the Intercounty Connector (ICC).

The ICC, which would link Interstate 270 in Montgomery County and Interstate 95 in Prince George’s County, has been studied for 40 years and is scheduled for construction in 2006.

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