Statehood for the District of Columbia
The Minneapolis Star and Tribune, June 27, 1987
Walter Fauntroy, nonvoting delegate who represents Washington, D.C., in the House, seeks to transform the District of Columbia into the state of New Columbia. Fauntroy’s quest is a long shot, despite support from such prominent Democrats as House Speaker Jim Wright and Majority Leader Tom Foley. Yet he deserves to succeed because his cause is just.
In the past two decades, district residents have been granted home rule and the right to vote in presidential elections. But they still lack representation in Congress. In 1978, Congress offered for ratification a constitutional amendment that would have provided congressional representation but stopped short of statehood. When the seven-year limit on ratification expired in 1985, only a few states had approved the amendment. Minnesota was one of them. With the failure of the 1978 amendment, Fauntroy offered his statehood proposal, which requires only congressional approval and presidential signature.
Like all other U.S. citizens, district residents honor U.S. laws, pay U.S. taxes and serve in the U.S. military. Unlike other U.S. citizens, they have no direct say in what laws Congress will pass, what taxes Congress will impose and what wars Congress will declare. Fauntroy seeks to redress that fundamental unfairness.
There are also practical reasons for granting statehood. Like many core urban areas, the district has suffered a declining population, loss of commercial and industrial tax base to surrounding suburbs and increased poverty. Costs grow faster than city resources. Most states, recognizing the vital role central cities play in metropolitan economies, respond with urban aid raised by taxing suburbs–or by giving core cities the power to impose a payroll tax on suburban commuters.
But Washington has no state government to help out; its suburbs are in Virginia and Maryland. And the district charter prohibits a payroll tax. Which leaves only Congress to finance the rising cost of district Government. And that means Minnesota taxpayers shoulder as much of the district’s financial burden as those in Virginia and Maryland, who benefit directly from the district’s government-dominated economy.
Federal support will always be appropriate, given the government’s enormous tax-exempt holdings in the district. But statehood would allow Washington to tax commuters or work out other arrangements requiring Virginia and Maryland to bear a larger share of the district’s burdens.
Fauntroy’s bill is likely to come to the House floor this fall. Because the district is Democratic, urban and black, it faces opposition from Republicans, rural legislators and bigots. None relish adding district representatives to Congress. Such crass partisanship and bigotry should not be allowed to subvert the drive for statehood. To ease the district’s financial burden and to erase an embarrassing political injustice, Congress should pass the statehood bill and welcome New Columbia to the Union.
This newspaper article was obtained from the Congressional Record in the Library of Congress related to H.R. 51, The New Columbia Admission Act of 1993. The article is not in the public domain but is being republished here under the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law in order to continue my advocacy for full representation for the American citizens of the District of Columbia.