- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 2, 2002

D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp yesterday said she has changed her position on the Tax Parity Act and will hold off on income-tax cuts slated for next year.

"I have recommended to the council to hold off on tax parity for 2003 and possibly 2004," Mrs. Cropp told The Washington Times.

The at-large Democrat said she will draft legislation to reflect the change in the fiscal 2003 budget, which the council will vote on Tuesday. Mrs. Cropp said she will place triggers in the legislation that will allow the income-tax cuts to continue in 2004 "if the city has the funds to support it."

"That will make it easier for us, and no one will have to bring up [tax cuts] in committee for them to happen," she said.

The Times reported yesterday that a rift had developed in the council over continuing the Tax Parity Act. Six of the panel's 13 members calling themselves the "Fiscal Six" spoke out against proceeding with the tax cuts at the expense of city services.

The six Democrats Vincent Orange, Ward 5; Sanday Allen, Ward 8; Jim Graham, Ward 1; Adrian Fenty, Ward 4; Phil Mendelson, at large; and Harold Brazil, at large took up the position that Mayor Anthony A. Williams been promoting since he submitted the budget to the council on March 18.

With Mrs. Cropp's decision, the six now number seven and form the majority of the council. The members were concerned that budget cuts for new hires and overtime in the Metropolitan Police Department and the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department were endangering citizens and should not be made.

Mrs. Cropp yesterday said there will be no cuts in new hires in any department. She said the council, Mr. Williams and U.S. Attorney for the District Roscoe C. Howard Jr. have been struggling to reduce the amount of overtime paid out by D.C. police for two years.

"The overtime reduction was made to reflect the success [Chief Charles H. Ramsey] testified he had made in that area," Mrs. Cropp said. "And we didn't take all of the overtime, just some of it."

Members of the "Fiscal Six" claimed victory for the residents of the District, saying their efforts have ensured a budget that can provide essential services and allow the city to meet its financial obligations while postponing tax cuts and avoiding a worsening deficit.

"We are pleased that Linda Cropp supports our proposed budget that delivers essential services to the citizens of D.C.," said Mr. Brazil, the de facto leader of the six.

Mr. Graham called the policy shift by Mrs. Cropp "a victory for the enhancement of services in the District."

Mrs. Cropp said the council still has work to do on the budget before it goes to vote on Tuesday. But she said the mayor and the council are moving closer to an understanding of what the city needs.

Mr. William's spokesman, Tony Bullock, said the mayor backs Mrs. Cropp's new initiatives. "The mayor supports the concept of triggers and is committed to tax-parity reductions when we can afford them," he said.

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