DMV Daily: Biddle Trips on Taxes

Councilmember switches his stance

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    NEWSLETTERS

    SBOE
    At-Large D.C. Councilmember Sekou Biddle

    Interim At-Large D.C. Councilmember Sekou Biddle, who faces 10 rivals in an April 26 special election, made quite a rookie mistake on taxes this week.

    Biddle first told the Washington Post that in order to close the District’s huge budget deficit, “we have to figure out is there is anything we can cut that is not a need.” After that, he said, “we will fill the hole with fees and taxes somehow.”

    That was a reasonable enough statement, but Biddle, trying to avoid a soak-the-rich reputation, tripped when he tried to add a populist pitch: “If I am going to increase the rate, it doesn’t seem logical for me to increase the rate for someone other than myself. … It’s not sacrifice if I say you sacrifice but I am not giving up anything.”

    That also sounded nice, but since Biddle makes $125,000 per year as a councilmember, his remark was interpreted as indicating that he would be open to raising taxes on residents making that amount or more. (Others on the Council are proposing tax hikes starting at a $200,000 threshold.)

    So Biddle later released this statement: “do not support a tax hike on businesses, individuals or households making above $125,000. The District is facing a major fiscal shortfall, but solving the problem doesn’t mean we need to be short-sighted. We can’t start addressing our budget challenges by putting taxes on the table up front.”

    Washington City Paper’s Alan Suderman says Biddle gave his rivals “an awkward flip-flop as an early Presidents' Day gift.”

    Elsewhere in the DMV:

    * Greater Greater Washington hosted a chat with Vincent Orange, one of Biddle’s rivals in the special election. The former Ward 5 councilmember and repeat citywide candidate said if he gets back on the Council, he would work to “create a job czar and enforce living wage legislation I got passed in 2006.” He also said he would play a role in crafting a balanced budget.

    * In an editorial, the Post says if Mayor Vincent Gray “isn’t careful, he could well argue the District out of $60 million in federal education dollars.” Gray “was warned” by senators Wednesday “that extra money for the city’s traditional and public schools was likely conditioned on congressional reauthorization of vouchers.” The Post says it doesn’t “like the fact that voucher supporters, mainly House Republicans who have made the program an educational priority, seem willing to yank that money if the voucher program is not continued,” but says there is “no harm at all” in “accepting that money in exchange for helping a small number of students get a better education.”

    * The Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee voted 7 to 4 Thursday to send same-sex marriage legislation to the full Senate. The committee passage was expected, but the floor vote is expected to be close. The Post reports Senate President Mike Miller said he thinks the bill would “narrowly would pass in his chamber,” where 24 votes are needed.

    In the state House, passage should be easier. The Washington Examiner reports the bill has at least 59 co-sponsors already, with 71 needed for approval.

    * The Baltimore Sun says in an editorial that Gov. Martin O’Malley’s “newfound interest in closing one of the more glaring deficiencies” in Maryland’s “loophole-ridden campaign finance laws…is tempered by his desire to simultaneously loosen overall limits on political giving.” The Sun says “serious campaign finance reform, and not some token effort, is just what a skeptical electorate would appreciate right now.”

    * The Examiner reports former Metro chairman Peter Benjamin will be quitting the WMATA board of directors, saying Maryland officials “want a ‘clean slate’ as they redirect the board following major criticism from outside groups.” Benjamin’s departure “marks the latest major upheaval in what has been the largest turnover in the board’s history,” making him the fourth to leave in recent months.

    * The Examiner reports a Democratic National Committee official said DNC Chairman Tim Kaine “will not announce whether he’ll run in 2012 for Jim Webb’s Senate seat at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner Saturday,” and that Kaine’s decision on the race will not come until “later in the month or early next month.”

    Meanwhile, the Post’s Mike DeBonis warns George Allen against thinking he has a lock on the Republican nomination. The “ongoing battles between the old guard of the Virginia GOP and conservative upstarts threaten to complicate the party’s seemingly clear path to picking up Webb’s seat,” DeBonis writes, and “in a national political scene that is only months removed from the toppling of several moderate Republicans by challengers who hammered them for insufficient orthodoxy, conservative activists see opportunity.”

    * ARLnow reports Virginia state Sen. Patsy Ticer, a Democrat from Alexandria, announced her retirement on Thursday. Ticer, who has held the seat since 1996, had been widely expected to retire. Three other Democrats -- Del. Adam Ebbin, Arlington School Board Chair Libby Garvey, and Alexandria City Council member Rob Krupicka – had already said they would seek their party’s nomination if Ticer retired.

    The Examiner says Ticer, a former Alexandria mayor, “notably helped lead the fight against a proposal by then-Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke to build a new stadium at Potomac Yard on land Alexandria had zoned for mixed commercial/residential use.”

    * Joseph Mamah of the conservative Common Sense blog wonders why the Virginia Senate plans to spend $300 million on a new office building for legislators.

    Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC