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D.C. Council Tax Debate Breeds Tension

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Members of the D.C. Council didn't pull many punches during yesterday's debate over raising the city's income tax for its wealthiest residents.
Members of the D.C. Council didn't pull many punches during yesterday's debate over raising the city's income tax for its wealthiest residents.

If laws are like sausages -- a food not pretty to watch being made -- then Tuesday's council debate over raising the city's income tax for residents earning more than $350,000 was a guided tour through the sausage factory.

The measure ultimately passed, but the contention over the bill started with the council breakfast, which, as Council member Phil Mendelson notes, served up a few insults and profanities to go along with the food. "I think there some remarks that were inappropriately personal," Mendelson said after the council meeting. 

Later, there was the long and heated debate over tax increases, which at times veered off into the surreal, like when Vincent Orange offered this suggestion. 

"This is bad and what I say is 'tear it up,'" said Orange, who proceeded to rip up the proposal on the dais. 

The three-hour debate didn't exactly follow Robert's Rules of Order, as council members at times were speaking over each other. But the income tax issue helped expose some of the strong philosophical differences on the council.

Council member Harry Thomas was a supporter: "This is a city of the haves and the have-nots, let's not fool ourselves," he said.

David Catania was not: "This is lazy government, this ideologically driven, this is vendetta driven by those who want nothing more than to say we raised taxes."

In the end, it was close. The council voted 7-6 in favor of the increase, but council members decided to add a sunset clause so they can revisit the issue in four years.

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