- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 6, 2003

   D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday said the D.C. Council is neglecting its neediest residents by cutting AIDS programs and jobs for social workers.
   “We worked hard to build a strong safety net for our most vulnerable residents, and I feel these cuts are irresponsible,” Mr. Williams said.
   The 13-member council has proposed spending cuts of $2.5 million from the Child and Family Services Agency, $1 million from the health department’s HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs, and $2 million from mental health for service monitors — a cut the mayor said violates a court order.
   Mr. Williams instead wants to increase taxes to fully fund programs in D.C. social service agencies and to fully staff the Metropolitan Police Department at 3,800 officers.
   He also wants to eliminate tax exemptions on health club memberships, theater admissions, towing and other services.
   The mayor’s proposal includes a two-year income-tax surcharge on residents earning more than $100,000 a year and an increase in the tax on parking in commercial lots and garages in the District.
   The District’s proposed fiscal 2004 budget is $5.8 billion, which is funded by $3.6 billion in taxes from residents.
   Since Mr. Williams submitted his budget proposal in late March, he and the council have been involved in weekly negotiations. The council will approve a final budget May 6, after which the mayor will either sign or veto it.
   Congress gives the District $550 million to $600 million annually to pay for the Water and Sewer Authority, the Metro transit system, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, municipal courts, the prison system and other independent agencies.
   The remaining $1.6 billion comes from federal grants and entitlements to states and jurisdictions for highways, social services and other programs.
   D.C. Council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, said the mayor is not concentrating enough on spending cuts. He said the 2004 budget has increased by 5 percent over 2003, while revenue has remained flat for two years.
   “No one likes to cut … but I’m disappointed the mayor took the easy way out by proposing new taxes instead of making the hard decisions to cut spending,” he said.
    “I applaud my colleagues for scrubbing their budgets in key areas.”
   Council member Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat and Judiciary Committee chairman, rejected the mayor’s proposal to give the police department $3 million to become fully staffed.
   Mr. Williams and police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said the department is authorized to have 3,800 officers.
   However, Mrs. Patterson said the department will get only enough money for 85 more officers, which will bring the total to 3,700.
   Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp told WUSA-TV (Channel 9) last week that the council wants the department fully staffed, but cannot afford it in the next fiscal year.
    Mr. Evans, also chairman of the city’s finance committee, has eliminated from the budget the mayor’s proposed tax increases and has suggested increasing the franchise tax by 1.4 percent and the personal property tax on businesses by 0.9 percent.
   He said higher taxes for D.C. residents are out of bounds because they already pay more than residents in other U.S. jurisdictions.
   Mr. Evans said that he hopes no new taxes are implemented but added, “If we are going to tax, I would rather it be on businesses than residents.”
   Mr. Williams said the city’s business community is responsible for the tax disparity.
   “If you really look at it, our income tax for residents is very close to Maryland and Virginia,” he said. “It’s our business taxes that are much, much higher.”

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