- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 24, 2014

An attempt to derail a tax on gyms, yoga studios and fitness centers was defeated 9-4 by the D.C. Council on Tuesday.

D.C. Council member David A. Catania sought to amend legislation that outlines the city’s fiscal 2015 budget to exempt health clubs from being subject to the District’s 5.75 percent sales tax.

The fitness tax is part of a larger proposal, introduced by D.C. Council chairman Phil Mendelson that would reduce most income taxes while broadening the District’s tax base, in part by expanding the number of services that would be subject to the city’s sales tax. It came under attack by health club owners and other fitness enthusiasts who worried that added costs will discourage people from joining gyms and crowded in the D.C. Council chamber for the vote Tuesday.

Mr. Catania, at-large independent and candidate for mayor, pledged after the vote that if elected he would repeal the tax.

“To the extent we collect a few dollars today and discourage those from participating in healthy activities, we are looking at deferred and increased healthcare costs in the long run — those that we all pay,” he said in defense of his amendment.

Muriel Bowser, the Democratic nominee for mayor, was one of three other council members who voted with Mr. Catania to block the tax. Other council members who voted against the tax were Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, and outgoing member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat.

Mr. Evans said the District has become the butt of late night talk show jokes as a result of the attempt to tax health clubs and yoga studios and worried that it would harm business activity in the city.

D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, criticized the lobbying efforts against the bill, many of which have characterized the tax as a so called “yoga tax” in an effort to stir up controversy.

“The only joke here is on us if we fall prey to these health club businesses for their phony labels,” she said.