- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ambitious politicians everywhere often say one thing but do another, including in Washington, D.C., where the mayor and 13 lawmakers toy as they please with the strings attached to every dollar that makes its way into the coffers.

Some pols can appear to be exceptions, like Jack Evans, the most veteran member of the D.C. Council, who once wanted to become mayor, and Vincent Orange, who still wants to become mayor and just last week regained a seat on the council.

So, as the council readies for its first vote next week on Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s debut spending plan, both Democratic lawmakers can position themselves as the conscience of City Hall, where the stamp pad marked “spending” runneth over with red ink.

In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Orange said there are ways to raise revenue other than tax and fee increases, and he cited plans to reap money from new and overlooked sources, including four proposed Wal-Marts and a proposed Costco, and qualifying for additional Medicaid funds.

“Throughout my campaign, I pushed for better Medicaid reimbursement and to recoup $300 million in unpaid parking fines by nonresidents,” said Mr. Orange, who was sworn in last week after winning an at-large seat in the April 26 special election. “Council members are starting to discuss whether we should be downsizing [government]. I also plan to take up government waste, fraud and abuse, and I feel good that my colleagues have been receptive to such things.

“As for Costco, I’m 100 percent committed to Costco coming to the District of Columbia because that commitment was one I made when I was on council before. The economy is getting ready to take off, and we have several things in the pipeline: a new tennis center, [Southwest] waterfront projects, farmers markets, Wal-Mart, the convention center hotel. We need to focus on those economic development programs and getting our people employed.

But D.C. bleeding hearts are true-blue liberals, and each lawmaker during this week’s budget talks — as is always the case — discussed plans to raise taxes so they can increase spending on the socioeconomic disadvantaged.

The usual culprits are a liberal’s buffet of higher fees and taxes. Council member Tommy Wells, for example, wants to punish residents who own one or more vehicles by increasing the fee for zoned parking permits from $15 to $35, and raising that cost to $100 if the resident owns a third vehicle. The additional revenue would further subsidize bicyclists and bus riders.

Wait. There’s more.

Council member Jim Graham, who wouldn’t touch a budget knife if his political life depended on it, decried the mayor for trimming spending on homeless services, characterizing the proposed cuts as “inhuman.” That’s a striking comment from a Democrat whose politics consider generational welfare, drug abuse and abortion to be humane.

And Mr. Graham, like the mayor, supports raising income taxes.

Mr. Graham and other “millionaire-tax” bullies seem to forget that the city’s inhospitable ways of the 1960s and ‘70s pushed businesses across the Potomac and residents into the suburbs.

Mr. Evans remains as the most articulate voice on bad tax proposals, saying he and his council colleagues should scrap seven of the mayor’s 13 proposals to increase the costs of living, playing and doing business in the District.

And then there’s Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown, who, like Mr. Orange, said he wants to go after money already owed to the city and wield a budget scalpel.

“I reduced the size of government by $8.4 million by, among other things, trimming general services [spending] and cutting the budget of the University of the District of Columbia by eliminating a subsidy for out-of-state students,” Mr. Brown, who wants to be mayor, told me on Tuesday. “We need to show stakeholders that we’re curbing spending.”

But, hey, talk is cheap.

* Contact Deborah Simmons at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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