DC Council Preps To Hike Taxes on Fun Things - NBC4 Washington

DC Council Preps To Hike Taxes on Fun Things

Next time, poor people will be taxed simply for being poor!



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    Look on the bright side, D.C. smokers: we're not quite at "New York prices" yet.

    You've read the headline and know what's coming, so let's jump right to the funny euphemism on which the city government has decided: "revenue enhancements."

    Gee golly, Mister Fenty, how do you enhance revenue? Is there a specific public policy mechanism available for this purpose?

    The D.C. Council plans to increase the city's sales, cigarette and gas taxes to bridge a massive deficit in fiscal 2010 and avoid a raid on coveted reserve funds.

    After three days of "painful" and often heated talks, council members slashed roughly $300 million from the 2010 budget. But they were still short an estimated $40 million, which they needed to raise through so-called "revenue enhancements" to avoid further cuts or a dip into the rainy day fund, as Mayor Adrian Fenty has suggested.

    "We tax the things we want to discourage," Councilman David Catania explained.

    That's the standard public policy rationale, sure, but with the economy being so miserable, does Catania's moralistic one-liner suffice? Addicted cigarette smokers are, by statistical average, lower- and "working-class," so this makes for a regressive tax hike to the tune of 25 percent -- coming right off the heels of a 62-cent federal cigarette tax hike earlier this year. Sales tax? Also regressive, especially when the economy needs people to spend, and people need money for necessities. And gas tax? People need their cars more than ever, now that the Metro trains crash into each other.

    Strange, though: Councilman Jim Graham keeps trying to introduce a different, non-regressive means of "revenue enhancement": a new top income tax bracket of 8.9 percent for residents earning over $500,000 a year, which is a lot of money. As it stands now, the top bracket is 8.5 percent and starts at $40,000.

    Naturally, the other powers-that-be despise such a miniscule tax hike on the grossly wealthy, because it would be Socialism. Graham's proposal has been consistently rejected from any budget bill. It's just not as "sensible" as taxing your city's poor people an extra 25 percent for a product that helps them get through each day, during a historic recession, caused by Wall Street bankers.

    Jim Newell writes for Wonkette and IvyGate.