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The D.C. Council gave unanimous preliminary approval today to a bill from At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds that would eliminate property taxes for some District seniors, while holding off on another bill from Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans that would cap property tax increases for all residents.

Evans requested a delay in the first vote on his bill, which would have lowered the cap in property tax increases from 10 percent to 5 percent. The bill faced opposition at the Council breakfast before today’s meeting, with councilmembers asking why they should act on it before receiving the findings of the Anthony Williams-led D.C. Tax Revision Commission.

Bonds’ bill, which would eliminate property taxes for District residents who make less than $60,000 and have owned property in the city for at least 15 years, proved more successful, even earning the votes of councilmembers who say it needs changes before a final vote.

“I do think that there are serious issues about this bill,” Mary Cheh said, before going along with the rest of the Council and voting for it.

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson also voted for the bill, while saying he wants to explore how the bill could also help renters.”If they’re renting, they’re paying real property tax,” Mendelson said.

Mendelson’s complaints about the bill lead Evans to accuse him of reading straight from a letter from the left-leaning D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute opposing Bonds’ tax break. “Oh, how funny!” Evans said.

Indeed, D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute Ed Lazere director does oppose the bill. “If you’re 74, you get nothing,” Lazere says. “If you’re 75, you have your taxes entirely limited.”

An anonymous Gray administration official told the Washington Post that Gray would oppose both property tax bills, but Gray’s letter to councilmembers ahead of the meeting only mentioned opposition to Evans’. Mayoral spokesman Pedro Ribeiro says Gray doesn’t have a position on Bonds’ bill.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery