Brown shuffles D.C. budget on eve of final vote

D.C. Council Chair Kwame Brown is expected to throw out Mayor Vincent Gray’s plan to increase income tax on the districts highest earners on the eve of a final budget vote.

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At the Wilson Building, it appeared Brown had the votes needed to pass a city budget without an income-tax increase proposed this spring by Gray.

Instead, Brown will propose generating revenue from out-of-state bonds, a major shift as the council prepares to vote tomorrow.

“I think it’s going to be a surprise to a lot of people who benefit from this exemption and I think you are going to hear from these people,” said Jim Graham, Ward 1 council member.

Brown said in a statement: “I believe this is a defining moment in the city where the legislature has done the right thing. We have had to make many tough choices to address the challenges presented in the mayor's proposal.”

For some council members 'doing the right thing' meant stopping proposed cuts to city services like homeless shelters and health services, whether funded by taxes on income or bonds.

“There are things that I object to and things that I would have like to see but I think the chairman did a good job of trying to put back many of the cuts that were most troublesome and at the same time have a balanced budget,” said Ward 3 council member Mary Cheh.

Wednesday's vote could be a close one, with speculation that council member Marion Barry, who's office declined an interview request, could cast the deciding vote. Sources say tax abatements for several churches in Ward 8 led Barry to back the chairman's budget.

“You’ll see little horse trading at times, but what you wont see is the mess we see on capitol hill today,” said council member Tommy Wells in a stab at Congress.

The D.C. council convenes for a final vote at 9:30 Wednesday morning.

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