Clubs blast ‘gym tax’ but Mendelson holds fast

 

The fight over the “yoga tax” — or the “gym tax” or “fitness tax” or “fair service tax” or “expanded sales tax” or whatever name you prefer — is expanding.

On Friday, at least two more gyms blasted members with news of the D.C. Council’s plan to extend the 5.75 percent sales tax to health clubs and tanning salons, among other services, hence raising the prices of gym memberships.

“Given the declining health of our nation, we at Crunch Fitness believe people should be rewarded for engaging in preventative health care, not discouraged by new taxes,” said a gym chain with two D.C. locations.

“As a leading advocate of health and fitness, Sports Club/LA understands the impact this proposed tax will have on the DC community, so we want to give you a chance to speak out,” read a message to members of D.C.’s toniest health club.

Both messages included links to an online petition campaign organized by the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association.

But the activism is so far falling on deaf ears. D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) continued to defend the sales tax expansion during a Friday radio appearance as a key part of a broader tax relief package.

“I don’t think the council’s going to change it,” Mendelson said on WAMU-FM’s Politics Hour. “At the rate of 5.75 percent, I don’t know any … experts in the field who say that affects behavior. … We already taxed sugary beverages and candy, and we don’t see a reduction in the consumption of those.”

He took particular aim at the notion that a gym tax would discourage D.C. residents from leading healthier lives: “We’ve been taxing athletic equipment and athletic gear for years, and nobody’s objected to that nor has anybody said that that has an adverse effect on physical fitness.”

The good news for aggrieved gym-goers is that there’s still time to change Mendo’s mind: A final vote on the budget legislation containing the tax hike will come June 17.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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