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Posted at 12:50 PM ET, 09/23/2011

D.C. taxpayers buy council member new office furnishings

Two days after the D.C. Council voted to raise taxes on the city’s wealthiest residents, $2,300 in taxpayer-funded furniture was delivered to the city hall office of council member Michael A. Brown.

 For years, Brown (I-At large) has been a chief advocate for raising taxes on the wealthy, arguing that the city needed to protect social programs from the budget ax

 On Tuesday, Brown got his wish when the council voted 7 to 6 to raise the tax rate from 8.5 percent to 8.95 percent on income of $350,000 a year or more.

 Supporters of the tax increase insisted that the District had little choice but to raise new revenue because it needed to fill a $13 million gap in the fiscal year 2012 budget, even though the city is ending fiscal year 2011 with an $89 million surplus.

But on Thursday, a Washington Post reporter spotted deliverymen wheeling an olive couch and chair into Brown’s office at the John A. Wilson Building. The couch smelled like and looked like it was new, but Brown staffers insisted that the council member had purchased used furniture.

 In addition to the couch and chair, Brown also used part of his annual office budget to buy four reception chairs, a laminated desk, bookshelf and two floor lamps.

  David Meadows, Brown’s spokesman, said the office decided to renovate the furnishings because the first-term council member had yet to put his own stamp on the decor.

“After nearly three years in office, we have finally replaced a few pieces of our offices’ shoddy 1980s furniture with used from a discount store,” Meadows said.

Although Brown was not immediately available to turn over a receipt, Meadows said the furniture came from Cort, which sells ”clearance furniture,” according to its Web site.

“We feel we could not have gotten a better deal at a flea market,” said Meadows, adding that the office routinely returns “thousands upon thousands of dollars’ of its annual office budget back to the general fund.

Brown isn’t the first council member to upgrade his office this year amid what are supposed to be lean budget times. Earlier in the summer, Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) spent a “couple thousand dollars” on new furnishings for her office suite, according to her staff.

Brown’s new (but used) furniture made an easy target for the D.C. Republican Committee, which has been blasting members’ spending habits.

“The timing of it couldn’t be worse,” said Paul Craney, executive director of the D.C. Republican Party. “Council member Michael Brown is just tone deaf.  You can’t say we need a tax increase and, at the same time, say you want to remodel your office and say it with a straight face.” 

By  |  12:50 PM ET, 09/23/2011

 
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