April 15, 2011 -- Wondering why your taxes are due three days later - April 18 this year? It's because city workers in D.C. have the day off to celebrate Emancipation Day.
On April 16, 1862, Washington, D.C. became the first city in America to have slavery abolished by the federal government. City employees are celebrating Friday with an unpaid furlough day.
The official celebration of the holiday is today, so that means no school, no parking tickets and no trash pick-up for residents of the district, but for the nation it means the tax filing deadline is pushed back to midnight on Monday. The filing deadline is only changed if it falls on Emancipation Day, a Sunday or during a presidentially-declared disaster such as Hurricane Katrina.
"Emancipation Day kind of has a double meaning for D.C. It commemorates the emancipation of slaves... but also has a symbolic meaning is as far as D.C. being emancipated, eventually, from federal government control over local issues," said Rob Marus, a spokesman for the mayor's office who spoke to ABC News despite having the day off.
Washington's unpaid furlough day is intended to help ease the district's budget problems. The city council passed an emergency budget provision in late 2010 establishing four already-celebrated public holidays, including Emancipation Day, as furlough days where city employees would not be paid. This provision will save the district $19 million in 2011.
Mayor Vincent Gray is celebrating the day by appearing at a rally for DC voting rights. Gray is fresh out of jail from being arrested Monday for a similar protest. He is again expected to speak out against the continuing resolution passed by Congress yesterday to fund the rest of 2011. The bill determined D.C.'s budget and includes several riders Gray and many district residents strongly oppose.
Gray will continue his "line of rhetoric about that being unfair to us. We're being used as a bargaining chip in negotiations and political football," Marus said.
Congress's 2011 budget compromise bill includes a school-voucher provision, championed by House Speaker John Boehner, which gives vouchers to low-income students to attend private schools. It also prohibits Washington from spending any local or federal money on abortion services.
"It's a big issue because, essentially, the federal government has an inordinate amount of control over local affairs," Marus said. "They control our own locally-raised tax funds and have veto power over any legislation we pass."
Marus said Congress and the president are using the district as a "Petri dish" and making its residents "guinea pigs" for political proposals.