Protests Disrupt D.C. Council Budget Cutting

Raucus council session cuts budget, rejects tax increases - for now

As soon as D.C. Council Chairman and Mayor-elect Vincent Gray gaveled the council to order Tuesday, protesters began popping up all over the crowded council chambers.

"Tax cuts for the rich, service cuts for the poor," one man shouted as he was led out the door by police. 

The squad of officers was kept busy as one protester after another stood up to denounce the proceedings. In all, there were seven disruptions and 10 people were ejected from the room.

The council was meeting to pass almost $200 million in budget reductions in the current fiscal year, including social service programs for the young, the poor and the elderly. The council also voted to require most city employees to take four holidays as unpaid leave. That furlough program alone will save close to $20 million.

The budget cuts were approved after the council turned back several efforts to raise taxes on incomes over $75,000.  Council members like Jim Graham (Ward 1) and Michael Brown (At-Large) said the city's wealthiest could afford to pay a little more.

But Gray, who becomes mayor on Jan. 2, and finance Chairman Jack Evans warned that the city must cut its budget now and get spending under control. If it doesn't, they said, the city could face the possibility of a financial control board again taking over city finances like it did in the 1990s when the city was almost bankrupt.

Gray and incoming Councl Chairman Kwame Brown both promised they would look at a wide range of budget options, including possible tax increases, when the council votes in the spring on the 2011-2012 budget. That budget already is projected to have almost $400 million in red-ink that must be addressed.

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