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D.C. council refuses to act on Fenty plan to raise fees, fines

D.C. Council members, apparently worried about the looming elections, refused today to act on a proposal by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) to raise or impose 680 new fines and fees.

The council was scheduled to vote today on emergency legislation requiring residents to pay more for business licenses, building permits and dozens of traffic infractions.

During the debate, council members lashed out at Fenty's proposal, accusing him of "nickel and dimeing" residents with hidden taxes. But Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) and other members stressed they had little choice but to enact the fees because of the city's budget deficit.

However, a few minutes before the final vote, council members grew irritated when their general counsel told them Fenty could enact many of the proposed fee increases through rule-making that did not require council approval. Fearing Fenty was trying to set them up by forcing them join him in supporting potentially political unpopular fee increases, council members instead voted unanimously to table the legislation.

"Some of these fees are astronomical," said Council member Kwame Brown (D-At large) "I know we have to make some tough choices, but I think there has to be better options."

Fenty's proposed fine and fee increases were initially proposed as part of his fiscal 2011 budget.

Instead of acting, the council is putting the issue back before the mayor. In the coming days, Gray and members want Fenty to unilaterally impose the new or increased fees that he has the power to implement. If he does not, the council agreed to revisit the matter in about a week.

"Let me be clear, this is mayor's proposal, not mine," said Gray, who is challenging Fenty in the Democratic primary for mayor. " I don't take responsibility for this."

Despite the maneuvering, it appears a host of fees will be increased this year one way or another.

Gray said the administration had asked the council to also approve the increases as "emergency" legislation that could be implemented immediately to help close a deficit in the current year's budget. The fees and fines are expected to raise an additional $7 million between June 1 and Oct. 1, the end of fiscal 2010. If they remain through fiscal 2011, they will generate about $21 million.

If a motorist is ticketed for exceeding the speed limit by 15 mph or less, for example, the new fine will be $125 instead of $50. The fine for driving too slowly will be $50 instead of $15.

-- Tim Craig

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By Tim Craig  |  May 18, 2010; 1:10 PM ET
Categories:  Budget , City Finances , D.C. Council , Mayor Fenty , Tim Craig , Vincent C. Gray  | Tags: Budget, adrian fenty, council raising fees to increase revenue, higher fees, new fees, new fees to close budget gap, vincent gray  
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The Mayor has never had a problem going at it alone on anything else, so why not allow him to utilize his rule making authority to implement these ridiculous taxes and fees alone. Let him suffer the benefits or CONSEQUENCES, by himself.

There will be nobody to point to on that lonely island, but himself.

Very savvy move on the part of the Council. Too bad they didn't know the Mayor had this authority until the 11th hour. All of this hand wringing could have been avoided.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | May 18, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Indeed. Let Fenty assess the taxes and/or fees. See how the public embraces that!

OK Gray that frees you up for more campaign time.

Posted by: candycane1 | May 18, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Here's a craaaaazeee idea WaPo. How about actually publishing what the fee changes are, instead of the "who's maneuvering where" horse race columns?

You know, commit"journalism"?

Posted by: janowicki | May 18, 2010 5:46 PM | Report abuse

As Ronald Reagan stated so well, "now there you go, again". Fenty needs to nickel and dime the citizens and visitors to cover-up for all of the money, Skinner, Rhee, and others have stolen or mismanaged from the DC taxpayers.

Posted by: fivetogo | May 18, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

How about cutting the mayor's salary, the chancellor's salary and the councilmembers' salaries and let them struggle like the rest of us?

Posted by: UrbanDweller | May 18, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

There he is. That is the Vincent Gray that I know.

When all else nothing.

When the pressure is nothing.

When asked HIS platform.....say nothing.

What a wishy washy politician.

Abandoning his responsibilities in order to avoid making a decision.

Last week he SAID that he won't attempt to raise taxes because it would hurt his campaign. WOW!!!!!! What a fraud. Government by opinion polls.

Now that is some Leadership!

Posted by: politicalrealist | May 19, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

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