'Yoga tax' stays in place after D.C. Council vote

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - The D.C. Council voted 9-4 Tuesday to keep the controversial "yoga tax" in its $10.6-billion budget.

The 5.75-percent sales tax on health club memberships and yoga studios has received vocal opposition from the fitness community in D.C.

Wearing t-shirts saying "Don't Tax Wellness," fitness enthusiasts packed the D.C. Council Chamber to voice their opposition to Council Chairman Phil Mendelson's controversial proposal for the tax.

Mendelson said the tax will do exactly what it is intended to do - provide much-needed funds for the city, to the tune of hundreds of millions in just the first year.

"From a tax policy perspective...there's everything good about this proposal, and there's not the harm that some folks have predicted," he said during the meeting Tuesday.

Councilmember and Independent mayoral candidate David Catania opposed the tax increase and introduced an amendment to remove it from the District's budget - but that amendment was voted down, meaning the cost of getting fit is about to go up in D.C.

Catania voiced his disappointment after the amendment was voted down.

"Rather than make it easier for people to gain access to fitness, we're making it harder by making it more expensive," he said.

The D.C. Chamber of Commerce supports the tax, saying a broader tax base will have a better long-term effect for D.C. residents.

Outside Vida Fitness in the district, the lunch-hour workout crowd wasn't happy about the news.

"It seems to me that the things that should be taxed are the frivolous things," said Ann Loreeman, a D.C. resident who owns a gym membership. "I don't think health-related things should be taxed."

"For people that are thinking about doing it, or they're not frequenters as much as others...that might discourage them," agreed Meng Wang, also a D.C. resident and gym member.

Democratic mayoral nominee Muriel Bowser and current Mayor Vincent Gray have also publicly opposed the tax.

The budget includes a substantial income tax cut, among other changes to the district's tax code.

Despite residents' opposition to the fitness tax, Mendelson has defended the plan, pointing out that the overall tax burden for residents will decrease.

Thursday afternoon, Catania promised voters on Twitter that he would push to repeal the tax if elected mayor.

"As Mayor I will submit an FY16 budget that will repeal the Wellness Tax. #DontTaxWellness," he posted.

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