- The Washington Times - Monday, July 14, 2014

Lame-duck Mayor Vincent C. Gray failed to persuade a single council member to support his call to reconsider the city’s $10.8 billion budget, with lawmakers Monday overriding his veto of the fiscal 2015 spending plan by the same 12-1 vote with which they passed it last month.

Ahead of the vote, members outlined their own dissatisfactions with portions of the spending plan, but most said the overall proposal accomplished laudable goals — such as implementing a tax-reform package estimated to annually save taxpayers $143 million.

Mr. Gray announced Friday he was vetoing the budget in part because to pay for the tax cuts it stripped funding from the city’s streetcar program, taxed fitness centers and changed the mechanism for tax relief for seniors.

“Seniors will see tax relief whether they own or rent. That’s very important. What the mayor had proposed would only have provided tax relief for senior property owners,” said D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, of her support of the council’s plan. “The council has lowered income tax for seniors and almost all District residents with the budget.”

Nine members were needed to override the mayor’s veto, and the vote was decisive. Council member Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat, opposed the budget because of the heavy cuts levied against the streetcar system and was the lone vote to uphold the veto on Monday.

“When the city’s doing well, that’s when we should support public infrastructure,” he said. “This budget says it’s more important to have tax cuts than to fund public transit infrastructure for the future of our city.”

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, a Democrat, acknowledged that his plan didn’t fund all the mayor’s priorities but challenged the assertion that it outright kills the fledgling streetcar system, which by even optimistic projections is months away from shuttling its first passengers.

“There is over a half a billion dollars set aside in the capital improvements plan for streetcars, which is far more than this mayor or the previous mayor was able to spend,” he said.

Two council members who are running to replace Mr. Gray, hinted at the possibility of changing disagreeable portions of the budget in future fiscal years.

“Some of the concerns that he raises I believe can be resolved in future budgets,” said David A. Catania, at-large independent and mayoral candidate. “Nothing is forever, and many of the concerns that are raised in this budget can be addressed next year.”

Mr. Catania, who clashed with Mr. Mendelson during an unsuccessful effort to strip the tax on fitness centers from the budget, also referenced how the chairman only introduced his plan the night before the council held its first vote on the bill. He said he hoped in future years Mr. Mendelson will be able to give council members at least 24 hours to read and dissect a budget plan.

Democratic nominee for mayor Muriel Bowser said she expects the next mayor to make decisions based on the financial situation at the time.

“We don’t have to look at this budget as the last time we will revisit any of these issues,” the Ward 4 Democrat said.

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