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STATEMENT OF MRS. R. B. RANDS, CHAIRMAN OF THE DISTRICT
OF COLUMBIA WOMEN'S ANTI-SALES-TAX COMMITTEE
Mrs. Rands. I am Mrs. R. B. Rands, or Mrs. Minnie Frost Rands; I am known as both.
I am chairman of the District of Columbia Women's Anti-SalesTax Committee.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to read some remarks.
Mr. Bates. How was that committee organized, Mrs. Rands; what is the membership of it, and give us a little background of it.
Mrs. Rands. This committee was organized in a way a great deal of consumer work is being done today—and that is, a few women get together who think things are not going right and we say, “Let us see what we can do about it."
It is just simply the people taking a hand in Government. I have the names of the committee here. Mr. Bates. How many members are there? Mrs. RANDS. There are nine members of the committee. Mr. BATEs. It is a spontaneous organization? Mrs. Rands. Yes. Mr. BATEs. That is all right. That is perfectly all right, but we like to hear such testimony coming from citizens in a spontaneous manner.
Mrs. Rands. That is what it is; spontaneous. These are individuals. We have gotten a sponsorship now of 14 other organizations. There are many, many organizations that are against the sales tax besides, these, but these just happened to be 14 organizations that we contacted and asked them to bring a vote up and see whether or not the membership was for or against the sales tax, and these 14 said that they were against it and would appreciate our doing anything we could.
Due to the splendid cooperation of the Washington newspapers, you no doubt have heard of the work of our committee-how we enlisted the sponsorship of 14 women's organizations of Greater Washington—the outlying areas are interested because they shop here and how 40 volunteers from our committee and from those organizations afforded the passers-by at one corner in Washington, viz, Twelfth and F Streets NW., an opportunity to register their opposition to the proposed iniquitoụs sales tax on Saturday, March 22, between the hours of 10 a. m. and 5 p. m.
Meanwhile, many other volunteers on that same day collected signatures in their own neighborhoods by going from door to door. The day was raw and very windy so that many of the women contracted colds from the exposure; however, their work was essential to the feeling of the public pulse, since this is the one city in the United States where we have taxation without suffrage.
A total of 3,800 signatures was collected from people who, in many cases, had to stand in line in the wind waiting to write their names. Many others told us they wanted to sign but that they were Government workers and were afraid to sign anything nowadays for fear they would lose their jobs. Nevertheless we collected signatures against the sales tax at the rate of 300 per hour on the four corners of that one intersection at Twelfth and F Streets.
During the three and a half hours that I stood at that corner, I noticed that the more alert, intelligent-looking passers-by were the ones who wanted to sign. The ignorant, vacant faces seemed never to have heard of a sales tax; in fact, they said they did not know what it was. They evidently just do not read the newspapers because the Washington papers—at least the ones I read—have covered the subject very well, I think, and I have yet to read an editorial in favor of this tax. The fact is, I got that word “iniquitous' out of an editorial in the
I Washington Daily News. They called it an inquitous sales tax. I think they were right about it.
Many people remarked how badly the sales tax had worked out, in the cities from which they came—New York, Chicago, New Orleans, St. Louis—a man from the latter said that their State legislature finally passed a law forbidding any Missouri city to adopt a sales tas. People from sales-tax States and cities said it was such a pleasure to shop in Washington because this city was not cluttered with that nuisance.
Our own residents, if people of means, said they would much rather pay semiannually more real estate and income taxes than to be constantly annoyed by the ghastly nuisance of a sales tax requiring the continual handling of small change, debating over the amount due, and so forth.
The people of slender means said, with a sigh of bleak despair, that the prices were already so high that another penny would be like the straw that broke the camel's back, and I think they feel more or less that way even without the sales tax. In fact, they just did not see how they were going to manage.
They especially thanked us for taking the time and trouble to fight it for them. Some asked in all seriousness if it would cost them anything to sign; we laughingly told them no, but it would cost them if they did not.
The drastic drop in milk consumption here proves that prices are already so high that people are having to give up necessities. Therefore this tax would cause real hardship to the lower-income third of our population, and since the highest third would not feel it at all, it would be grossly unfair.
Our committee is amused and disgusted with the recent resolution passed by the Maryland State Legislature. They have fixed a bad tax on themselves and now want to make sure that Congress clamps an unjust tax on us. We feel sure that you gentlemen will do nothing of the kind and thus most courteously and eloquently tell them to mind their own business.
Let me summarize our objections to the sales tax as follows:
4. It is a nuisance to the shopper, an added burden to overworked clerks in the stores, and a nightmare to merchants.
We think those pusillanimous individuals who want a sales tax clamped on the District of Columbia so the Congressmen will have to pay it are very unkind to the city's poor, who will feel it a hundred times worse than Congress will. And if they want it to catch outsiders who shop here, is that any way to treat the stranger within our gates?
We also think that if men had to do the family shopping, they would not think of raising revenue by this minutia but would ask you gentlemen to consider some of the following means for collecting the additional amount necessary for the District of Columbia budget:
A. To increase taxes on income-producing properties, especially those which had no rent ceilings during the war and have benefited by the war boom and are therefore, in general, well able to absorb a more equitable share of taxes.
Ten million dollars could be added to our revenue by making the District of Columbia property tax rate equal to that of San Francisco. Its rate is next to the lowest of any city in the 500,000 to 1,000,000 population group. Washington's rate is the lowest.
B. Since the Federal Government owns 18.66 percent of District of Columbia property, the present 10 percent of our expenses paid by the Federal Government should certainly be raised as advocated by Senators O'Mahoney and Overton.
C. We endorse the Commissioners' proposal broadening the base and increasing the yield of income tax and recommend rigid enforcement.
Mr. BATES. Mrs. Rands, it has been testified here by some of the witnesses that they felt that more than the majority of the people here favored the sales tax. What is your reaction, after the work you have put in on this matter? What has the reception been?
Mrs. Rands. You have heard that sometimes the questions proposed by the Gallup poll are loaded, or asked in a certain way so that when the answer comes in it is what the person who made up the question wanted to get.
I think in some of those cases where people have reported that their organizations have gone on record as being in favor of the sales tax, I happen to know that in many of those cases it was not taken to the membership
You did not get a grass-roots vote but what you got was a legislative committee or of the council or just the top ones. I refer to the particular organization.
Mr. BATES. Thank you, Mrs. Rands.
STATEMENT OF MRS. FRANCES LICHTENBURG, REPRESENTING
LEAGUE OF WOMEN SHOPPERS AND THE MacARTHUR BOULEVARD CITIZENS' ASSOCIATION
Mrs. LICHTENBURG. My name is Mrs. Frances Lichtenburg. I have been asked to make presentations; one is my own and one is from the MacArthur Boulevard Citizens' Association. I am a member of that association also.
We desire to bring to the attention of this committee several resolutions passed by the MacArthur Boulevard Citizens' Association. At the March_meeting of the association the following motions were unanimously passed by the association (reading]:
Be it resolved, That the MacArthur Boulevard Citizens Association is opposed to a 2 percent retail sales tax for the District of Columbia ; that we support an adequate income tax as proposed by the Commissioners with sufficient enforcement to guarantee payment by all subject to the tax; that we urge a larger Federal payment in return for the many services to the Federal Government now being supported by the present District taxpayers.
In addition at the April meeting the following notices were passed unanimously [reading]:
Be it resolved, That the MacArthur Boulevard Citizens' Association favor a recommendation to Congress that if the O'Mahoney-Overton formula is passed. the land occupied by the District Government be computed on the same percentage basis as that used by the Federal Government for tax computation; that the association petition Congress to reconsider the budgets for the Boards of Education and Recreation with a view to increasing the appropriations to meet the needs; that salaries of teachers be adjusted upwards and that teachers be paid during sick leave.
At present you know the teachers have to pay for their own sick leave.
We appreciate the opportunity of presenting before this committee the views of the citizenry residing in our section of the District.
The following testimony is presented by me for the Washington League of Women Shoppers.
Mr. Bates. Give us a little description of who they are. Mrs. LICHTENBURG. It is a national organization with branches in nine cities across the country.
It was an organization started in 1935 to help the women understand the problems that come up between labor and consumers. That is, how does the living cost, how do fair working standards affect us and the things that we buy?
The national office is in New York City.
Although we are a group of housewives and not tax experts, we do not feel out of place at these hearings.
You will certainly agree with us that we are sort of "down to earth" economists, since we must manage our households to get the most benefit from our incomes.
Firstly, I wish to express the sentiments of our group that we believe taxation is a good investment. Stated more directly, we like to pay taxes if the tax money is wisely spent.
We believe it far more economical to pay a fair tax than to send our children to private schools, hire our own fire-fighting equipment, our own private watchmen and detectives, build our own roads, and many et ceteras.
In our household budgets there are few items where we get such large returns on our “investment.” At present, however, we are not getting the return that we had expected, particularly in regard to schools, street maintenance, and those individuals who need public assistance to keep them decent members of society.
This is a result chiefly of the city's growing pains. The population in the past 5 years has increased some 300,000 but there has been a tremendous drop in the number of income tax returns filed. this committee to make a thorough investigation of why in 1939 there
should have been approximately 135,000 returns and in 1945, despite one-third again as large a population, there were only 80,000.
This committee and the entire Congressional body must be aware that these people are your and their constituents. While living here, they have enjoyed every municipal service that the District taxpayer receives, yet these constituents have defaulted their share of the expenses.
We agree that H. R. 2282 should be revised-but the reciprocity should work in the other direction. The resident of 7 months or more who wishes to maintain his out-of-State voting privileges pay first his District tax and then if his home State has a higher rate he send the balance on. This is the down-to-earth old horse sense that applies in any realistic finance. Otherwise let that resident who pays his State tax elsewhere call his “home” State when his house is on fire. Let his children commute to dear old Middletown for their schooling.
The greatest defaulter in this respect is the Federal Government itself. Though it has taken more and more property away from the unexpandable District lands during the last 50 years, its burden of payment for the services it receives has decreased to a small fraction of the District budget.
We lost any form of self-government in 1878 in return for the promise that the Federal Government support half our budget. Then, as Senator Buck has himself so clearly stated, the Federal Government has not lived up to its statutory obligations; in 1925-38 it promised to pay 40 percent but actually during that 14-year period paid a total of $105,714.295 when $229,000,000 was due the District.
A difference of 123,000,000. Since then this obligation is even further from being met since the lump-sum arrangement makes the Federal payment about 12 percent of the budget.
As this committee is well aware other cities receive substantial payments from the Federal Government. In 1945 Detroit received $11,999,000, and Los Angeles $14,374,000 at a time when the District received six million.
These municipalities (and others) of course have elected representatives in Congress to see that their home town gets what is due it. We do not begrudge these payments, but only wonder why the District is a “step-child.” It is unfortunate that the popular misconception is that the Federal payments to the District are charitable handouts; on the contrary, the evidence so ably presented by the Commissioners and the department heads on the Budget requirements that the District is pauperizing itself to maintain the high quality of service that property should be present in the Capital of our country.
We should like to have a Nation-wide poll after the true picture is explained on the District's burden for the Federal Government. We are willing to wager that the clear-thinking American public would be ashamed of the pittance now made in payment-just as the franchised soldiers overseas were when they discovered that their buddies from the District of Columbia could not vote.
The O'Mahoney formula is a good one in the large type, but when it is read more carefully, we realize how inadequate it is. If I were to hire a maid and promise to pay her at a certain hourly rate then in computing that payment, deduct for the time spent walking from