- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Mayor Adrian Fenty didn’t exactly tell stakeholders last year to read his lips, but he nonetheless vowed not to raise taxes. The mayor’s fiscal 2008 budget proposal, Mr. Fenty’s first, makes a lie of that April 2006 campaign promise.

The $9.7 billion spending plan calls for more money for police and less money for schools. We stand behind the mayor’s request to allocate additional funds for the Metropolitan Police Department, so long as the city’s new police chief, Cathy Lanier, spends the bulk of that money to boost the number of officers on the force and assigns those officers where they are most needed — on the troubled streets to suppress the high homicide and juvenile crime rates.

The mayor’s school budget is under fire. For one, his spending plan proposes trimming the D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) plan by about $12 million. Of course, this doesn’t sit well with DCPS officials who view the move as Round 2 of the Fenty school governance plan, which last week received preliminary approval from the D.C. Council. The center of contention is the fact that the mayor’s school budget is based on projected declining DCPS enrollment for next school year, while the DCPS budget is based on last year’s enrollment count. With charter schools having made substantial inroads, the mayor is seemingly being fiscally prudent. Besides, Board of Education President Robert Bobb is on the record saying he would work with the mayor on a reconciliation if necessary.

Still, all is not well with the Fenty budget. Our chief concern is the mayor’s proposed tax increase to cover 911 expenses. Mr. Fenty wants to raise the 911 fee on land-line telephone) and cellphone users from an annual cost of $9.12 to $18.60. The Fenty administration also made substantial policy changes, such as elevating some programs — including tenant advocacy and disability services — to the agency level and adding new patients to the health-care coverage rolls. Each change costs money.

Mr. Fenty vowed during last year’s mayoral run — in April, to be precise — not to raise taxes. His reasoning then — “In my opinion, government is growing enough. We need to spend our money better” — is a true now as it was then, and perhaps even more so with taxpayers already going into debt to finance a new baseball stadium, a new soccer stadium, upgrades to the arena for our professional three basketball and hockey teams and a $1-billion-a-year-school-modernization plan that has yet to take shape. There are other capital projects as well, including roads and bridges and Metro.

The welcome mat that Wall Street laid out for the city is only 6 years old. Congress can bring the control board out of its dormancy as it sees fit. The Fenty budget moves important policy issues to the forefront, but lawmakers cannot afford to provide the same rubber stamp as the council’s of yesteryear, which drowned the District in serious red ink.

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