D.C. Council's $5.4 Billion Budget Revises Mayor's Plan

By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The D.C. Council approved a $5.4 billion budget yesterday that cuts hundreds of city jobs and aims to raise millions in new revenue by issuing more than 200,000 additional parking tickets in the next fiscal year.

The council action came after weeks of deliberations over the spending plan that Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) submitted in March, which included his proposals for closing an $800 million shortfall.

Council members shelved several of Fenty's budget initiatives, including a $51-a-year charge on residential electric bills for streetlight maintenance and an increase in the 911 tax on phone bills. On the other hand, the council slashed funding for the mayor's Summer Youth Employment Program.

"I believe the council has made substantial improvements to the mayor's version of the budget through hard work and diligence," said council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D).

The budget, approved unanimously, also eliminates popular sales tax holidays for back-to-school and holiday-season shopping, but it increases funding for pre-kindergarten, health care and job training.

One source of additional revenue will be an increase in fines on motorists who fail to abide by parking restrictions, officials said.

The city will equip 12 street sweepers with cameras to photograph the license plates of vehicles that are not moved for routine street cleanings, and violators will be mailed $40 tickets. According to budget documents, the city estimates the "sweeper cams" will generate about 237,500 tickets and about $7.1 million in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), the chairman of the Public Works and Transportation Committee, said he pushed for the cameras, but he acknowledged a "collision between two public interests."

"People don't wants tickets, but people also demand clean streets," Graham said.

Graham also blocked Fenty from eliminating 65 parking control positions, about half of which are unfilled. The additional officers will enable the city to expand enforcement in residential parking zones.

Graham, who noted that 70 percent of citations are issued to nonresidents, said the stepped-up enforcement will result in an additional $12 million for the city.

"The way parking enforcement has occurred historically is it's all about downtown, and we need to change that," Graham said.

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