- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 26, 2015

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said his budget plan gives Mayor Muriel Bowser “99 percent of what she’s requested” — all while fully funding plans to expand homeless services and eliminating proposed tax hikes.

The plan does not, however, fund a permanent expansion of the city’s summer jobs program to include youth up to 24 years old, nor does it pay for a full rollout of a police body camera program.

Ahead of the council’s Wednesday vote on the fiscal 2016 budget, the mayor sought to draw attention to the decision not to expand the Summer Youth Employment Program by hosting a bill signing for legislation that expands the program this summer.

Ms. Bowser appropriated money in this year’s budget to push the age limit on the six-week program back from 21-year-olds to 24-year-olds, noting that young adults in the city need job options.

Mr. Mendelson on Tuesday attacked the premise of the expansion, noting that young adults would benefit more from workforce training or community college opportunities.

“24-year-olds ought to have a real job, not a six-week minimum wage job,” he said at a budget briefing held Tuesday.

More than 20,000 city youth participate in the program annually and 1,000 young adults ages 22-24 are enrolled in this year’s program.

Mr. Mendelson said his proposal funds the mayor’s other priorities while keeping the city’s sales tax at 5.75 percent and the parking tax at 18 percent. The mayor had proposed a .25 percent sales tax increase, saying it was necessary to pay for additional homeless services and affordable housing initiatives. Mr. Mendelson said he found additional funds to make up for the approximately $32 million the two tax hikes would have brought in by curtailing appropriations for contracts and other funds that were not likely to be spent.

“I’m sorry I can’t make it more controversial,” Mr. Mendelson said, downplaying the level of conflict over the two proposals.

Mr. Mendelson’s proposal also includes a $5 increase to the fine for an expired parking meter, a change he estimates will net $900,000. An additional $3.3 million will be raised by the extending the time limit during which motorists are required to pay for parking in “premium” zones, pushing the limit back from 10 p.m. to midnight.

As part of Ms. Bowser’s $12.9 billion budget proposal, she sought $5.1 million to pay for the Metropolitan Police Department’s body-worn camera program. After D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie raised concern over the police department’s stance on curtailing public access to videos from the cameras, he recommended slowing the rollout of the program. The council’s plan includes funding the purchase of only 1,600 of a proposed 2,400 body cameras in the coming fiscal year.

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