Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. will join the fight to stop the District from imposing a commuter tax on residents from Maryland, Virginia and other states who come to work in the city.
Mr. Curran said in a statement Wednesday that he plans to intervene in a lawsuit filed in July by 18 D.C. residents, the D.C. Council and Mayor Anthony A. Williams that seeks permission from the federal government to tax income of commuters who work in the District but live in surrounding states.
“While not named as defendants in the lawsuit, Maryland and Virginia are both mentioned in the complaint as states in which the substantial majority of commuters to the District reside,” Mr. Curran said in the statement.
Mr. Curran declined yesterday to discuss his decision.
D.C. Council member Jack Evans, a Ward 2 Democrat and one of the biggest proponents of the tax, said yesterday that he was not concerned about Mr. Curran becoming involved.
“It is not surprising; [Maryland and Virginia] have the most to lose,” he said.
Virginia Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore committed earlier this summer to fight the tax. Maryland and Virginia’s governors and other government leaders also have opposed the plan.
The Prince William Board of County Supervisors recently passed a resolution opposing the tax.
The supervisors said, in part, that the 1973 District of Columbia Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization Act — known as the Home Rule Act — prohibits the District from imposing a commuter tax. About 17,000 Prince William residents commute to work in the District.
Loudoun County, which has about 6,000 residents working in the District, also could join in opposition to the suit.
The Montgomery County Council opposes the tax, though County Executive Douglas M. Duncan has a different point of view.
Mr. Duncan said he was disappointed by the lawsuit but would support a long-standing proposal to allocate to the District some federal income tax paid by commuters.
If the lawsuit is successful, as much as $1.4 billion in tax revenue could be redirected from Maryland and Virginia to the District.
About 500,000 people commute each day to work in the District, including roughly 280,000 from Maryland.
The commuters could pay the tax to the District and seek a credit from their home state, but that would take money from state coffers.
Mr. Evans said more than 70 percent of the personal income earned in the District goes to nonresidents, and that the D.C. government cannot function adequately without imposing on its own residents an income tax significantly higher than those in states.
The tax would come directly out of paychecks, and implementing the change would create no additional costs or extra paperwork for employees, said a spokesman for Mr. Evans.
Opponents to the tax say the District receives federal assistance such as grants and debt relief that other municipalities do not.
They also say the tax would hurt the District because business would flee to nearby states. Mr. Evans disagrees.
“Virginia and Maryland have been completely hypocritical on this issue because they all have commuter taxes although they don’t call them that,” Mr. Evans said.