The show is over, the council has approved a mid-year course correction on its budget to bridge a $188 million gap. As expected, a few councilmembers tried to include tax increases, and as expected, those efforts failed.
Before we go any further, LL needs to cop to a mistake made a few weeks ago when he predicted that the budget passed today would be unrecognizable from what lameduck Still Mayor Adrian Fenty proposed last month. Save for a few notable changes, the council just passed a budget that looks very much like Fenty’s proposal.
As for a pair of tax increase votes, they fell on a 8-5 margin. Those voting for tax increases: CMs Michael A. Brown, Harry Thomas Jr., Jim Graham, Tommy Wells, Marion Barry. Those voting against: everyone else.
Lingering in the shadows of the council’s debate were two boogeymen. The first: Fenty, who councilmembers say screwed them over by taking so long to send over a budget. Almost Mayor Vince Gray echoed the complaints of several councilmembers when he lamented the fact that the council had a “truncated, almost unreasonable amount of time” to digest Fenty’s budget.
The second boogyman is another control board imposed by Republican congressmen. Some members of the the anti-tax increase faction of council said the city is headed to another control board if it doesn’t start making painful cuts. CM Jack Evans said the incoming GOP-controlled House would like “nothing better” than to see the city implode under the weight of its own fiscal ineptitude, allowing Republicans to take over the city finances and say “we told you so.”
Referring to another control board, Gray said: “The Grim Reaper is at the door.”
Anyway, the debate on tax increases isn’t going anywhere. Look for it to come back with full force this spring, when the council tries to tackle a projected $440 million budget gap.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery