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Mayor Gray Applauds Councils Budget Vote at First Reading

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(WASHINGTON, DC) -- Today Mayor Vincent C. Gray commended the Council of the District of Columbia for its approval of a Fiscal Year 2012 Budget. Despite areas of disagreement, including the Council’s removal of a tax increase on upper-income residents, the Mayor looks forward to signing the budget upon approval of the Council.

“Many difficult choices needed to be made to close a $322.1 million gap,” Mayor Gray wrote in a letter to the Council Chairman prior to the vote. “I would like to thank you … for working with me in a professional and collaborative manner to solve the challenges we face.”

The Mayor commended Chairman Kwame Brown and his former Council colleagues for approving a budget that keeps intact the four key priorities of his agenda: fiscal stability, quality education, jobs and economic development, and safe communities.

Mayor Gray continues to support his proposal to increase the top tax rate for income above $200,000. He believes it is a more progressive and equitable tax policy than the tax on out-of-state bonds that the Council approved today. The Mayor expressed concerns that a tax on bonds may adversely impact the investment portfolio of retirees who could be on fixed incomes. Nonetheless, he added, “If the Council ultimately decides to swap the bond tax increase for the income tax increase, it is not a change that would prevent me from supporting the budget.”

The Mayor said he supports many of the $52 million in funding priorities identified by the Council. The priorities include increasing the number of police officers, restoring funds to the Housing Production Trust Fund, supporting mental-health initiatives, and keeping the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library open on Sundays. However, Mayor Gray concurred with the District’s Chief Financial Officer, Dr. Natwar Gandhi, in strongly discouraging the Council from counting on predicted future revenue increases in an uncertain economic environment to fund additional budget items.

Further, Mayor Gray said, “In a $9 billion budget, there always will be areas in which we disagree.” However, he added, “This budget is an example of the collaboration that is necessary to bring us together as One City.”

The Mayor also thanked the public for their substantial feedback through letters, responses to the budget survey, phone calls, and participation at the 10 budget town hall meetings he held in every ward over the two weeks leading up to Council consideration.