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D.C. Mayor Defends 2013 Budget, Including Traffic Cameras

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The D.C. Council questioned Mayor Vincent Gray on the details of his budget March 27.
Mallory Noe-Payne
The D.C. Council questioned Mayor Vincent Gray on the details of his budget March 27.

Forget taxes and fees; if District Mayor Vincent Gray has his way, D.C.'s budget will balanced in part by speeding cars and late-night alcohol. 

Gray is defended his budget for next year, which aims to close a $172 million shortfall through a combination of cuts and increased revenues, to the D.C. Council yesterday. His  proposed spending plan calls for some controversial proposals, including counting on millions in revenue from new traffic cameras.

The new devices include speed cameras, red light cameras, and even laser cameras that can catch speeding drivers in tunnels. But there's already been push-back on the cameras from AAA Mid-Atlantic and some of the council members, including Muriel Bowser.

"I think we've just gone overboard with this and when our residents see a $30 million expectation of fines, they become increasingly upset too," Bowser told Gray during the hearing. 

But the mayor didn't back down, telling the Council he would like to see traffic cameras eventually cover every part of the city. The bottom line, he said, is that speed cameras aren't for raising revenue, they're for stopping reckless drivers.

"This is a focus on how we protect the people and how we help people feel safe doing the things we say are a part of our sustainability plan," Gray said. "And that is … get people using other than automobiles, and people need to safe doing that."

Gray's other notable proposal, to extend the hours for bars and liquor stores ... was criticized by Council member Jim Graham. But Police Chief Cathy Lanier told reporters she's on board with the change.

The budget is now in the hands of council members. They'll have less than two months to make changes and sign off on the plan.

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