Mayor’s furlough payback plan draws fire

April 10, 2012

Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) sought support for his administration’s $79.5 million spending request in a briefing with D.C. Council members Tuesday afternoon.

The council is already scheduled to vote next week on Gray’s plan to use almost $20 million to repay city employees for four furlough days they took last year to help close a budget gap.

“I get stopped by a lot of people who are not at an income to give up the four days,” said Gray, adding that he frequently hears hardship stories from furloughed city employees. He described them as living “from paycheck to paycheck.”

But a few council members asked whether funding should be used for programs that were cut last year to help close a budget deficit. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) advocated for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program while Council member Michael A. Brown (I-At Large) pushed to restore funding to the city’s Housing Production Trust Fund, which helps create affordable housing.

Meanwhile, Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) said he would not vote for a proposal that includes paying for the furlough days, noting that 60 percent of city workers live outside the District and citing the difficulty of finding former workers to repay them.

Gray said the payback program would not apply to former employees.

Several council members, who were up for reelection in last week’s primary, agreed to support the repayments when accepting endorsements from local labor unions. The Gray administration already sent a memo to unions touting the furlough payback program.

The briefing also led to a broader discussion about what have become routine votes on supplemental budgets because of revised revenue estimates and, sometimes, overspending.

“I would like to figure out a way that we could stop this,” said Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3).

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