D.C. Council Overrides Gray's Budget Veto; Tax Cut Plan Approved | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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D.C. Council Overrides Gray's Budget Veto; Tax Cut Plan Approved

Mayor Vincent Gray vetoed the 2015 budget, but he was overridden by the D.C. Council.
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Mayor Vincent Gray vetoed the 2015 budget, but he was overridden by the D.C. Council.

The D.C. Council today voted 12-1 to override a veto by Mayor Vincent Gray of the 2015 budget, handing the outgoing executive a defeat on a spending plan that will largely impact his successor.

Gray vetoed the $10.8 billion budget late last week, arguing in an eight-page-letter that changes made by D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson threatened tax cuts for seniors, could imperil the city's planned 22-mile streetcar network and would limit future mayors' budgetary flexibility.

Despite his warnings, no new legislators were swayed to sustain his veto, with the majority speaking in favor of the spending plan. And though he placed personal calls to Council members Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and David Catania (I-At Large), both of whom are running to succeed Gray, both voted in favor of the budget. Catania did express concern with how the budget was passed, saying that legislators were not given 24 hours to review the changes before casting a first vote.

Only one legislator — Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) — sided with Gray, much as he did when the Council first voted for the 2015 budget in late June.

In a statement, Gray defended his veto of the budget, the last of his tenure.

“As I said in my veto statement, I could not, 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. I am disappointed that the Council did not see fit to work with me to craft a reasonable compromise that serves the best interest of District residents," he said.

The budget includes a bevy of planned tax cuts for residents and businesses, as well as a controversial plan to impose the 5.75 percent sales tax on gym memberships, yoga classes and health clubs. Despite spirited opposition from gym-goers and yogis, the majority of the Council voted to sustain the tax, which was originally proposed by the D.C. Tax Revision Commission.

It also alters a funding mechanism for the city's streetcar system, a move that provoked Gray to warn that the planned 22-mile system could be delayed by 31 years.

The budget takes effect on Oct. 1, though some of the tax changes will be phased in starting in January. The Council's two-month summer recess begins tomorrow.

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