D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Seventy percent of District residents favor Mayor Muriel E. Bowser's proposal to raise the sales tax to cover a $200 million budget shortfall, according to a survey by a liberal policy group.

The poll, commissioned by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, was timed to have an impact on budget deliberations by the D.C. Council, which is scheduled to vote on the city’s 2016 spend plan next week and is considering eliminating the mayor’s tax hike. Bowser (D) has said that the proposal, to increase the sales tax from 5.75 percent to 6 percent, is needed in part to help cover the cost of her ambitious plan to end the city’s epidemic of homelessness.

The survey found that most residents would rather see the government spend extra funds for city services than eliminate the proposed tax increase.

“The results are clear: residents recognize the need to fund critical city services,” Ed Lazere, executive director of DC Fiscal Policy Institute, said in a press release. “Residents would rather see investments in affordable housing and schools than save 25 cents on a $100 purchase.”


The majority of those surveyed said they were not aware of the mayor’s proposal, which would put the District’s sales tax on par with Maryland and Virginia. But after being told that the increase would address a budget shortfall and “support and enhance programs such as education, public safety, affordable housing, and homeless shelters,” 70 percent said they favored the measure.

The D.C. Council Committee on Finance and Revenue has recommended elimating the tax hike, and some council members have argued that a flat sales tax increase would disproportionately hurt the District’s poorest residents, who would feel a bigger bite as a percentage of their earnings.

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) has said he is looking for a way to maintain the current tax rate without making cuts to vital social services.

Survey respondents were asked what they would rather see the council do if it finds a surplus of money “that could either be used to roll back the sales tax increase or to fund services such as more affordable housing, tobacco cessation programs, or modernizing schools.”

Asked whether they would rather see the D.C. government focus more on funding city services or rolling back the sales tax, 62 percent said they favored the former. Twenty-eight percent favored the latter.

The 2016 spending plan is Bowser’s since she took office in January. The council has reviewed and amended to the budget. It will vote on a revised budget next Wednesday.

More than half of D.C. residents surveyed said that they approved of Bowser’s job performance so far, and her approval was the same among both black and white residents. Twenty-one percent of residents surveyed said they disapproved of the mayor’s job performance.

The survey was conducted by telephone May 18-19 and included interviews of 694 residents over age 18 in all eight of the city’s wards. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.