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DC Mayor Proposes Tax Hikes To Close City’s Budget Gaps

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, facing a $200 million budget shortfall, announced today during her budget proposal she would raise sales tax in the district to six percent and hike taxes on parking and electronic cigarettes to help make ends meet.

The $200 million gap didn’t stop the mayor from adding to the budget a new program called the “Boys and Men of Color Initiative” that seeks to help black and latino males in the city achieve greater economic success.

Calling them “enhancements to revenue,” the mayor said the tax hikes are expected to bring an extra $22 million to the city, while the new initiative to help boys and men of color will cost the city $20 million, effectively canceling out the tax increases.

As part of that initiative the mayor created a partnership with local businesses to give year-long, paid internships to boys who participated in last year’s “’The Audacity of Hope’ Book Challenge.”

That challenge consisted of the boys reading President Barack Obama’s book over their Christmas break and then using what they learned to offer the mayor policy suggestions on how they can improve their communities. One of those suggestions was to give all 100 of them paid internships.

“In order to create effective pathways to the middle class, we need to make sure that the next generations of Washingtonians have the tools they need to live, work, and thrive in the District of Columbia,” said Mayor Bowser. “This program will help give young men the experience they need to succeed in the workplace.”

In addition to the internships, the boys will each be paired with a mentor at a host business to receive additional guidance on career, school, and life choices.

The mayor said the rise in parking taxes from 18 to 22 percent would be used to “incentivize the use of public transportation” in the city.

“I don’t think that anyone here is arguing that more cars coming downtown is a good thing,” the mayor said. She said that people can’t afford to pay more for public transportation right now, and taxing parking would be a better option.

The D.C. Council rejected a similar tax increase last year out of concerns that the sales tax, being a flat tax, would disproportionately hurt the lowest income earners in the city.

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson told reporters he doesn’t think this is the correct time to raise taxes in the city, and Councilman Jack Evans said he will be “taking a look at the tax increases” and will try to find another way to raise the needed revenue.

Bowser will formally present her budget to the D.C. Council on April 13.

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