- The Washington Times - Friday, July 11, 2014

The D.C. Council is expected to vote Monday on whether to override Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s veto of the city’s fiscal 2015 budget.

Mr. Gray on Friday vetoed the $10.8 billion spending plan adopted by the council this month, disagreeing with elements that taxed fitness centers, didn’t do enough to reduce taxes on seniors and stripped funding from the city’s streetcar program.

“I cannot, in good conscience, sign a budget that hurts seniors, taxes wellness, dramatically delays and drives up the cost of the D.C. Streetcar system, and ties the hands of future Mayors to respond to fiscal problems,” said the mayor, outlining his reasons for the veto in a letter issued Friday.

The mayor sent back the entire Budget Support Act legislation, which includes the mechanisms for a tax reform package estimated to save city taxpayers $143 million a year, and vetoed three line items in the budget.

In his letter issued Friday, Mr. Gray asked the D.C. Council to delay its summer recess by 30 days to work out a compromise.

D.C. Council chairman Phil Mendelson in a letter said he was “disappointed” with Mr. Gray’s veto and said the mayor had “tried to spin this action in the best light.”

Mr. Mendelson was responsible for revising the budget, which included tax cuts for residents and businesses, and introduced his plan the night before the council held its first vote on the bill. Under the plan, the tax cuts were largely offset by using funding set aside for the long-planned streetcar program, which has yet to shuttle its first passengers.

The veto was less than surprising. Mr. Gray expressed early concern over the manner in which the tax reforms — drawn from the work of a Blue Ribbon commission led by former D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams — were approved by the D.C. Council and suggested he might veto the bill.

The council is expected to consider the veto at its meeting Monday, its last legislative session before its summer recess.

“I will work with colleagues to ensure that we override the veto of a budget that was passed almost unanimously last month,” Mr. Mendelson said.

It remains unclear whether the lame-duck Mr. Gray, who lost the Democratic primary in April, has the political clout to preserve the veto. Both the Democratic candidate for mayor, council member Muriel Bowser from Ward 4, and her chief rival in November, council member David A. Catania, at-large independent, voted in favor of the budget.

Several members of the council expressed concern over parts of the spending plan, including the so-called “yoga tax” that levied sales taxes on fitness centers and gyms. But 12 members of the 13-person council voted to approve both the budget and a supplemental spending plan.

Nine members are required to override a veto.

• Andrea Noble can be reached at anoble@washingtontimes.com.

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