“Why does statehood matter to DC?”
“How will this matter to me?”
“Shouldn’t we be focusing on other things? This seems like a waste of time and money.”
Some variation on “why does it matter?” has been my top question in the last few weeks. Not just from strangers whose day I interrupted while gathering petition signatures, but also from family and friends. While the DC statehood referendum in November 2016 was overwhelmingly approved (86% of respondents said YES to statehood), it’s clear that more people need to hear, more specifically and more often, how statehood would help with their everyday lives. Otherwise, why bother?
My personal answer has always been rooted in two themes – I want a voice in Congress, and I want to know that our local laws can’t be overturned to score cheap political points. (Key example: Senator Rubio introducing a bill the nullify our gun laws, which immediately increased his NRA rating from a B+ to an A, while impacting his own constituents not at all.)
But to make it even more tangible, here are some specific benefits to statehood, which is the only viable way to accomplish the two goals above:
- For any DC resident: Control of our local budget. There are many reasons why this matters. A big one: our local DC government can get dragged down with any federal government shutdown, so 700,000 people don’t get their trash collected when Congress can’t agree on a federal budget.
- For DC taxpayers: More money for the DC budget. DC is *prohibited* from taxing income from non-residents who work in DC, as already happens in many other states. I remember painfully filing taxes for every state in which I had done even an hour’s worth of work when I was a consultant. A 2015 Washington Post estimate found this would bring in nearly $100M from out-of-state DC government workers alone. And an earlier Washington Post article valued the total revenue potential at $1.4B.
- For believers in human rights: Maintain our anti-discrimination laws. Enough said.
- For anyone who uses a toilet in DC: Keep our sewers from backing up. A single Congressional Representative (Andy Harris of MD) tried to keep DC from mandating that flushable wipes actually be, you know, flushable. No DC issue is too small to distract Members of Congress.
- For families: Keep guns away from DC schools.
- And so many more reasons.
We DC residents deserve as much control over our budget and our local laws as our other 300M fellow Americans. Specific laws and Congressional interference aside, here’s the one reason statehood really matters: equality.