Why we left DC

My husband and I packed up our Washington, DC apartment on December 20, 2014. We spent Christmas with my family in Florida, and then made the long drive from FL to Denver just after the start of the new year. I realize my blog name – Slightly North of Home – doesn’t really apply any more, but I figure it’s too late to switch it over to Slightly West of Home. I haven’t really discussed the factors that led to the cross-country move, so I’ll interrupt my series of posts on our Europe 2014 trip (to Iceland, London, Paris, and Normandy) to fill you in.

About 6 months ago, Adam and I started to get the sense that we’d had enough of DC. I’d been in the city for almost 3 years, and he’d lived there for a full 2. Don’t get me wrong, the things that I loved about DC when I first moved still applied. Almost limitless free museums, events, and concerts. A great and ever expanding food scene. Incredible memorials that tugged at my patriotic heartstrings. Located on the East Coast, close to my family in North Carolina and a short plane ride from my parents in Florida. We had decent jobs and great friends there. We knew our way around; it was easy to navigate (it’s a grid system, people). We had found a Crossfit gym liked, with trainers we adored; our apartment was well-located and not crazy expensive (as far as DC apartments go).

But then, there was the traffic. Rush hour that lasts from 4 – 8; construction or road closings or just people traveling that means highways are jammed even on weekends. Protests for this, that, or the other that shut down major arteries through the city and make getting home from work a general nightmare. Even the metro system isn’t a reliable answer; lines grind to a halt almost daily due to technical malfunctions, trains are late and jammed with people. There’s a never-ending list of escalator and elevator closures, making getting off the metro another exercise in frustration.

There was the cost. Even our not-crazy-expensive apartment was well over $2100 for 800 square feet of space. To ride the metro during “peak times” aka to get to and from work, basically the only time you’d want to ride the metro in the first place, was a minimum of $2.70. Add on more money if you transferred lines or left the boundaries of DC proper. Some mornings, it would cost me $5 one way just to get to work. I wouldn’t complain if the metro operated efficiently, but see the above paragraph. Paying $10 a day to be inconveniently transported to and from work seems a little ridiculous.

Adding to the high cost of living are various forms of taxation imposed on residents. In addition to sales tax (which is, surprisingly, a fairly reasonable 5.75%), DC collects 10% on “prepared food”, which encompasses any meal served from a restaurant (even if it’s to-go) as well as any alcohol sold for consumption on site. I know it’s primarily aimed at collecting tourist dollars, but it makes eating out way expensive for residents too. Then there’s the “state” income tax. DC uses marginal tax rates (just like the federal government), and anyone making above $40k is in the 8.5% tax bracket. ($40k does not get you far in DC, so most people paying taxes in the District are thrown into that bracket.) The top income tax bracket has a rate of 8.95% which is the highest on the East Coast by far.

There are several other frustrating aspects of paying income tax to the District of Columbia (such as the very obvious and blatant marriage tax penalty – that, by the way, is not imposed on same-sex couples, even if the couple is legally married in DC) that could possibly, probably be overlooked, under normal circumstances. Like if the DC government wasn’t rife with crooks and coke addicts. Or if those were the most ridiculous tax rules enforced.

But then, just when we thought DC couldn’t get any more ridiculous, an idiot named Phil Mendelson decided it would be a good idea to extend the DC sales tax to include all “wellness services” – specifically, gyms. You read that right –  the DC city council voted to tax fitness. In a state that saw insurance premiums rise by 11% from 2014 – 2015, you are now penalized for living a healthier lifestyle. (Don’t worry, though – hair cuts and spa services are still exempt!) As soon as that law passed, we knew we had to get out.

I understand that, on paper, it sounds pretty silly that we uprooted our lives to avoid spending a few extra dollars on a gym membership, but it’s not about the money for us – it’s about the principals involved. Since moving to Colorado, we’ve joined 3 separate fitness facilities – a Crossfit gym, a rock climbing gym, and a racquetball gym. I’ll probably also join a yoga studio. We’re going skiing next weekend, and hiking the weekend after that. None of those services are subject to sales tax. In a nation where two-thirds of adults are obese, I refuse to believe that gym tax is the right option, and I want nothing to do with a state that imposes one.

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4 thoughts on “Why we left DC

  1. Trent Lewin

    That is an admirable set of principles… I agree, why not be proactive and facilitate people getting healthy? Saves us all in the end. Just so that you know, up here in the great white north, we are taxed on everything, and very heavily. Sales tax, income tax, property tax, we lose quite a bit of what comes in, right off the bat.

    Reply
    1. Erin E. Post author

      I studied abroad in the Netherlands, and that’s the way it is there too. I’m semi conflicted about my views on taxation, but I think it boils down to the faith (or lack thereof) that my government will spend my tax dollars wisely. It’s hard for me to support extra taxes knowing the money is going into the pockets of undeserving government officials.

      Reply
      1. Erin E. Post author

        Haha, that situation applies here too. When our government shutdown in October 2013, thousands of “nonessential” personnel were furloughed for a month and absolutely NOTHING changed. We should all go get on government payrolls and live the easy life.

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