Council member Michael Brown (I-At large), backed by social service advocates, has launched a final push to try to convince his colleagues to raise taxes on the wealthy to preserve additional funding for human services.
On Thursday, a majority of the council appeared to signal during budget deliberations that they didn't want to raise taxes this year on residents who earn more than $200,000. But Brown and the advocates are mounting a last-minute campaign to rally support for their proposal before the council votes on the budget Wednesday.
Currently, all District wage-earners who make $40,000 or more pay an 8.5 percent income tax. Brown has proposed creating another bracket for residents who make $250,000 a year or more and another for people who earn at least $1 million annually.
Brown appears to have support from Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), according to Joni Podschun, campaign manager for Save Our Safety Net. Without a tax increase, Podschun and Brown note, the city will be slashing millions of dollars from programs for the homeless and poor.
Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, a Democratic candidate for mayor, has indicated he wants to avoid a tax increase this year. But the social service advocates are stepping up the pressure on Gray.
Jews United for Justice issued a statement Monday afternoon accusing Gray of failing to keep his word. In April, according to the group, Gray pledged at a Jews United for Justice Labor Seder to protect the city's social safety net.
"Now is the time for council member Gray to step up and show leadership," said Jacob Feinspan, executive director of Jews United for Justice. "This is his opportunity to make good on his promises to protect the most vulnerable in our community. Instead he is demanding more cuts to critical safety net programs while he hides in his office and refuses to return our phone calls."
In an interview, Gray said the council needs a "longer and more protracted" discussion about taxes and spending that he hopes will continue even after Wednesday's vote on the budget.
"We need a 365-day discussion," Gray said.