• DC Mayor Takes Another Hit On Her First Budget

    District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser took another hit on her first proposed budget Wednesday when the D.C. Council Committee on Finance and Revenue rejected her proposed tax increases.

    Members of the committee moved to block proposals in the mayor’s budget that would raise the sales tax .25 percent and raise the parking tax 4 percent, The Washington Times reported.

    The proposal to hike the sales tax would raise it from 5.75 to 6 percent, which is expected to net the city an extra $22 million. Bowser has said this money would be used to address the homeless crisis in the city.

    Committee Chairman Jack Evans, however, called the idea that the extra money would be used to deal with homeless issues “just rhetoric,” because the money would be dropped in the general fund, not earmarked for a specific purpose.

    That $22 million could just as easily be used for anything else the city is going to pay for next year, and quite possibly would be used to fund the mayor’s $20 million plan to open an all-boys college prep school and give year-long internships to boys who read Barack Obama’s book, “The Audacity of Hope.”

    The parking tax would rise from 18 to 22 percent under Bowser’s plan, and bring in about $10 million.

    In total, raising taxes would bring roughly $32 million to the city, which seems like chump change when you consider the entire budget is almost $13 billion.

    The district is one of the only cities in the country with a surplus in its general fund, and a large one at that. Currently, the city has a record level of roughly a $1.8 billion surplus.

    The city also sees an organic revenue growth of around 3 percent, or $60 million a year.

    It is worth noting, too, that in her proposed budget, the mayor seeks to cut $25 million from the D.C. police department, while at the same time adding $2.5 million and 30 employees to grow the staff in her own office.

    On Tuesday, the Committee on the Judiciary proposed to slash funding for the expansion of body cameras on the city’s police force, which has been one of Bowser’s main budget objectives.

    Kenyan McDuffie, who chairs the committee, said the police department isn’t “logistically prepared” to equip every officer with a camera and he was concerned there were no regulatory boundaries for the program.

    Instead, the committee proposed a majorly scaled-back program that would consist of 1,200 cameras and cost just over $1.9 million. Bowser had originally proposed to add 2,400 cameras at a cost of around $5.1 million.

    That committee also recommended removing language from Bowser’s budget that would block the videos from disclosure through Freedom of Information Act regulations.

    Bowser has said it is necessary to exempt the videos because of privacy concerns, though the committee argued there needs to be a balance between privacy concerns and accountability for police officers.

    The full council will take the recommendations from Bowser and the separate committees and vote on a full budget package May 27.

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