D.C. mayor cites ‘emergency’ to raise fees, fines

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“I do not see the imposition of these fees [taxes] as an emergency,” he said in an e-mail.

Fenty spokeswoman Mafara Hobson said Tuesday that the administration moved as quickly as possible in an effort to minimize unintended consequences of an unbalanced budget.

The mayor is “committed to ensuring the city’s budget remains balanced,” she said.

Throughout recent budget deliberations, Mr. Evans warned that overspending is threatening the city’s fiscal standing. He argued against raising taxes and fees, and spending down the city’s savings. But neither the mayor nor the council made substantial cuts.

In fact, some liberal lawmakers — among them Michael A. Brown, at-large independent; Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat; Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat; and Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat — pushed tax increases to pay for increased spending on the poor this election year.

Mrs. Cheh, for example, was the chief lawmaker behind the new 6 percent sales tax on soda, while Mr. Graham proposed raising income taxes.

All 13 lawmakers said the recession has hit the poor the hardest, and they bolstered social services such as housing and health care subsidies, free schooling and job training programs. Even Mrs. Cheh’s beverage tax sends money to programs in schools and day care centers.

Mr. Fenty campaigned for mayor in 2006 by pledging not to raise taxes, but this is the second year in a row that he and lawmakers have raised taxes and fees that affect the poor and wealthy alike.

Last year, the mayor and the council raised gas, sales and tobacco taxes. Earlier this year, they imposed a 5-cent fee on plastic and paper carryout bags.

Economists agree that consumption taxes on basic goods and general government-use fees are regressive and hurt the poor the most.

Pollsters and strategists have yet to gauge what impact the new fees and taxes will have on the races for mayor and council. One effect is certain, however: The new sugary-beverage tax will hit the wallet of the athletic Mr. Fenty, who favors vitamin water.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Deborah Simmons

Deborah Simmons

Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...

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