Bickering begins in battle over D.C. drink tax

Mark Segraves,

WASHINGTON – While the plan to extend bar hours to raise revenue for the District has stalled, the question remains on how to make up the $3.2 million in projected taxes the extra hour would have raised.

The D.C. Council committee that oversees the District’s Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration voted 3 to 2 Wednesday against extending the times bars and nightclubs can serve alcohol.

The Washington Post reports councilmembers Jim Graham, Tommy Wells and Michael Brown are floating the idea of an additional 6-cents-per-drink tax at bars and restaurants.

D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans says the idea of increasing the excise tax on alcoholic beverages is dead on arrival.

“If it comes to my committee I won’t move it, so that’s that,” Evans tells WTOP.

Evans is chairman of the Committee on Finance and Revenue. Any legislation dealing with taxes would routinely come though his committee.

Evans, who called Graham “idiotic” at a recent council meeting, says if Graham wants to strike down the Mayor’s plan then Graham needs to find the money himself, “And that’s hard work that Jim doesn’t want to do.”

Graham disagrees. He says funding for human services, which he oversees, has suffered deep cuts in recent years.

“Jack should care about homelessness,” Graham tells WTOP. “We emptied the Franklin Shelter in order to accommodate him. This is not just a human service issue.”

Graham tells WTOP the 6-cent-per-drink excise tax is part of his committee’s report and the Chairman of the Council, Kwame Brown, could decide to let the entire council vote on it without passing through Evans’ committee.

“That’s a decision for the chairman.” Graham says.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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