Local Politics

Durham tax on commuters floated, sunk

Posted February 23, 2011
Updated February 24, 2011

— As many as two-thirds of the people who work in Durham County don't live there, according to local estimates, and some local officials say those commuters are getting a free ride when it comes to county services.

"(Commuters) don't really contribute to the tax base in that way, so this is way for us to be able to get a step ahead. We are trying to do everything we can to avoid a property tax increase," Michael Page, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, said.

Durham County Commissioner Joe Bowser proposed a 1 percent tax to raise revenue. He later took it off the table. 

Levying a tax on commuters would need approval from the General Assembly, and state Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, said the proposal would likely go nowhere in the legislature.

The Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates that more than 100,000 people drive to Durham County every day to work, with many headed to offices and laboratories in and around Research Triangle Park.

Durham traffic Durham County eyes tax on commuters

Stacey Logue, who drives from Johnston County to her job in RTP, said she doesn't think she should be taxed because she commutes.

"I think it would be awful. I mean, I wouldn't imagine I'd want to come out and work in this area," Logue said. "It's just one more way to get money out of us."

Casey Steinbacher, president of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, said a commuter tax could cost the county jobs.

"The idea of a commuter tax really is an added cost to businesses in Durham," Steinbacher said. "We are concerned that, in a regional economic development atmosphere, that additional cost would cause businesses to look at other locations."

RTP added more than $1.7 billion to Durham County's tax base last year, officials said, and employers like IBM, GlaxoSmithKline and Cree and their workers have a tradition of supporting local communities.

Durham County resident Charles Eatmon said a commuter tax wouldn't solve the county's budget problems.

"It sounds like a good idea at first," Eatmon said. "It may just be a knee-jerk reaction, and it would be difficult to implement."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • dcourtney Feb 24, 2011

    As some have said this proposal has been taken too seriously. Maybe so. However with a "prior life" of commuting to Durham, much of my income was spent in Durham County due to long hours and stopping on the way out of county to purchase gas, make car purchases, get car repairs, clothing, groceries, & gifts for Holiday Seasons. More went to United Way contributions and other community causes, service and fund raising participation with non-profit groups, education and workshop costs, meals at lunch and dinner time and even returning on week-ends for community events - so I do not apologize for going to another county and sleeping.

  • dws Feb 24, 2011

    "but I think people are taking it waaaayyy too serious"

    pushing back on insane proposals is good

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Feb 24, 2011

    Durham County and the City of Durham need take a hard look at themselves and realize why people don't want to live there instead of taxing commuters who work in Durham and choose to live elsewhere.

    It's definitely a quality of life issue.

  • jdupree Feb 24, 2011

    Tax recreational drug sales, prostitution, firearm sales and ownership, knives. You will have plenty of money!

  • jdupree Feb 24, 2011

    Down in flames, mismanaged city/county!

  • lovethesouth1 Feb 24, 2011

    NCLiving1234 - GREAT point!

    "some local officials say those commuters are getting a free ride when it comes to county services"...Exactly what county services are those? And no free rides in Durham... are you SERIOUS? Ironic.

  • ncliving1234 Feb 24, 2011

    Perhaps rather than trying to raise a tax on commuters, the Durham County Commissioners should figure out why a) the 100,000 people who commute to work in Durham County don't want to live in Durham County b) 2/3rds of the jobs in Durham County aren't filled by people who live in Durham.

  • 68_dodge_polara Feb 24, 2011

    "Durham, highest taxes in the state..."

    This is true.
    last year
    available city county combined
    2008 0.603 0.834 1.437

  • CONUNDRUM Feb 24, 2011

    PEOPLE PLEASE CALM DOWN! It was an option put on the table to help with the revenue lost for the County, it was even admitted that if pursued it wouldn't be approved. I do appreciate that people spoke up about it though, but I think people are taking it waaaayyy too serious. I'm pretty sure some of us who have been affected by the economy have had some crazy ideas on how to save money, but it doesn't mean you implement those ideas.

  • luvbailey Feb 24, 2011

    "That dog just ain't gonna hunt."