In one of her first forays as author of significant legislation, D.C. Councilwoman Anita Bonds says she will introduce measures to cut taxes and subsidize rent for elderly District residents.
"What we're trying to do is give relief to those who have been here, stayed the course and felt very strongly about remaining a District of Columbia resident," Bonds told The Washington Examiner. "We want to say 'Thank you very much.'"
Bonds' marquee proposal, which she will introduce within weeks, would exempt residents who are at least 80 years old and have lived in the District for 25 years or more from property taxes, provided they earn less than $150,000 a year.
A separate proposal would allow renters who meet the same criteria to receive a rebate on their rent payments.
"When I was visiting with seniors, they talked about how they felt the city was out of touch with them and their needs," said Bonds, who won an April special election for an at-large council seat. "It just made sense to me to try to pursue this."
The District has about 32,000 residents who are at least 75 years old, but Bonds did not have an estimate of how many residents could benefit from her proposal.
Bonds' legislation would represent a broadening of the District's existing tax exemption for seniors, which allows residents who are at least 65 years old to claim a 50 percent reduction on their real property tax bills.
Bonds' measures have already won the backing of Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans, chairman of the committee that oversees tax issues, although aides cautioned that lawmakers would have to find the money to support the cuts.
Property taxes accounted for nearly 18 percent of the District's revenues during fiscal 2012. Bonds estimated that her proposals would cost "a few million" dollars.
"I'm not interested in trying to give relief where it's going to cost the city $50 million," Bonds said.
D.C. finance officials estimated that the District forfeited about $14.6 million in revenue last year because of existing tax relief programs for elderly and disabled residents.
Pedro Ribeiro, a spokesman for Mayor Vincent Gray, said the administration would review Bonds' proposal.
But Ribeiro said that Gray had already begun weighing new options to assist elderly residents.
"There's been a lot of ideas back and forth about ways to help senior citizens," Ribeiro said. "There have been discussions about what to do about property taxes and income taxes."
Those discussions, Ribeiro said, followed Gray's support of what he believes could offer a boost for some elderly residents: a repeal of the District's tax on out-of-state municipal bonds.
"We think that's significant assistance," Ribeiro said.