We know Loose Lips wishes he were here, and not on his way to the beach, so he could report: The D.C. Council has passed its new, leaner budget!
Instead, we bring you the news care of the Washington Post‘s Tim Craig, who writes:
The D.C. Council unanimously agreed Friday to slash spending and raise sales, gas and cigarette taxes to close a $666 million budget shortfall over the next three years.
Council members said the tax increases and spending cuts were needed to bolster the District’s finances because of the recession that has strapped cities and states across the country.
No surprises on the tax hikes, if you’ve been following the week’s final budget-gap-closing deliberations: The sales tax, beginning in October, will bump up from 5.75 percent to 6 percent. The cigarette tax will go up 50 cents, to $2.50 a pack. And the gas tax, now 20 cents a gallon, will rise by 3.5 cents. Those steps are expected to raise $50 million.
As for spending cuts, totaling $100 million:
The council proposed a $30 million reduction in spending on schools, including a 50 percent reduction in summer school slots next year.
The council also agreed to curtail hiring police officers, eliminate hundreds of positions and scale back the Summer Youth Employment Program from 10 weeks to six weeks.
Members also agreed to eliminate earmarks for arts and social service organizations. In addition to saving money, [Chairman Vincent C.] Gray is trying to respond to the controversy over council member Marion Barry‘s (D-Ward 8) use of the earmark process to divert money to several organizations in Ward 8.
The revised budget will now go to the mayor, Adrian M. Fenty, who had wanted to use the city’s rainy-day fund to close the hole – through October 2010 – rather than raise taxes. He indicated today on WAMU-FM he probably would support the new version, saying the tax increases are “obviously not draconian.”