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Tommy Wells, advocates push for tax increase

Tim Craig

D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) said Wednesday night that he will not accept any cuts to the city's social services budget unless it is accompanied by a tax increase, perhaps even on wage-earners who make less than $100,000 a year.

Wells, chairman of the Human Services Committee, made his remarks at a news conference where almost 70 organizations announced that they will push to set a new tax rate for residents who earn more than $200,000 a year.

"I will not accept any budget cut to the human services cluster without raising revenue, taxes," Wells said. When a reporter asked him if he'd support a tax increase on middle-class residents, Wells responded, "I don't believe anything should be off the table."

"I will look at all income levels and I am not starting off with one proposal," said Wells, who faces Republican Jim DeMartino in the Nov. 2 general election.

The Fair Budget Coalition, made up of 67 local nonprofit and advocacy groups, released a proposal to set a new income tax rate for residents who make more than $200,000. Currently, all District residents who earn $40,000 or more pay an 8.5 percent local income tax.

But with the city facing a budget shortfall of at least $175 million, advocates are pressing city leaders to raise additional revenue instead of closing the gap through spending cuts alone.

"Another round of deep cuts puts at risk the gains we've made in education, public safety, health care and human services," said Judith Sandalow, executive director of the Children's Law Center. "The potential impact on schools, libraries and other vital programs jeopardize the District's ability to recover and to invest in a prosperous future."

In addition to a tax hike on the wealthy, the coalition is also pushing to end the tax exemption for interest paid on out-of-state bonds.

Dwight R. Bowman, national vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said organized labor was also backing a tax increase to close the budget shortfall. But when asked if AFGE would accept a deal in which a tax increase was coupled with layoffs or furloughs of city employees, Bowman suggested that that would hurt the local economy.

"It is my position we want to save jobs," Bowman said. "You have to realize our people just don't work in the District of Columbia, they live in the District of Columbia."

The battle over taxes and budget cuts will probably land before council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), the presumptive mayor, before the end of the year.

A tax increase could further erode Gray's standing among wealthy residents in Upper Northwest, who overwhelmingly sided with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary. But Gray is also under pressure from organized labor and social advocates, who were among his biggest backers during the campaign, to avoid major budget cuts to human service programs.

So far, Gray is avoiding taking a firm stance. At his final town hall meeting Wednesday night, Gray said he and the council would compile a list of potential budget cuts and then seek public input about whether taxes should be raised instead.

"I don't mind paying more, I'm okay with that," Gray said. "But I don't think everyone else is."

By Tim Craig  | October 28, 2010; 11:07 AM ET
Categories:  2010 District Election, Tim Craig  
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I don't mind paying more, if I know what it is going to. I don't like it, but this is a recessionary environment, we have spent ourselves into a hole and we have to collectively dig our way out of it.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | October 28, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Does DC ever examine the possibility of realizing efficiencies in any areas prior to talking tax increases. $100K is not much in DC. Trust me on that. If i could take my salary somewhere other than NYC, Chicago, etc. i would not have any concerns with a tax increase. $100K is good for a part-time job, like council members have.

Posted by: oknow1 | October 28, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Before Wells gets on his high horse about raising taxes on the middle class, he needs to answer the following questions:

Why does DC have more per capita city employees than any other city in the US? Why does this continue to be necessary?

What percentage of the DC budget goes to social services? How does this compare with other cities?

What evidence does he have that specific DC social service programs help families become independent over time?

How many DC welfare recipients have been receiving benefits for more than 5 years? How many of these recipients are also employed? How many able-bodied unemployed welfare recipients are utilizing job skills training programs or other educational opportunities? What agency in the DC government works to help welfare recipients achieve independence?

What efforts does the DC government make to ensure that all welfare recipients actually reside in DC? What agency of the DC government is responsible for investigating welfare fraud? What are the nature of its activities? How many cases of fraud has the agency uncovered and prosecuted?

Posted by: lipschitzantwon | October 28, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Before we talk tax increases, we need to talk about greater accountability for the mayor and council. I'm fine with paying more for legitimate city services like DPW, police, fire, schools. I'm not okay with council grants and giveaways to their friends and pet projects. ALL grants by the DC government need to end and be prohibited forever.

Posted by: blankspace | October 28, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Tommy "Bag Tax" Wells, in addition to his GREAT leadership on the DC City Council has still not sufficiently answered a question arising from his campaign literature and signs: Does it feel funny to advocate a "livable, walkable city," when you obviously do not walk very much?

Posted by: Nixonin08 | October 28, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Why not redirect some of that welfare money into a "work hours bounty," meaning that the government pays a couple extra dollars an hour for actual taxable work done instead of passivly handing out checks every month. It makes a minimum wage job worth applying for and gets people back in the workforce learning skills.

Posted by: ahowl7mx | October 28, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Aaaand this is why I'm going to move to VA. Go ahead do your tax thing. The rich will leave because they have better tax laws elsewhere and the tax revenues won't grow because 50 of those below $100k can't make up the difference of 1-10 high wage earing folks. SERVICES COST MONEY. Let's make everyone equally poor! Go mid 20th Century Communist Economic policies!

Posted by: B1Walker | October 28, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Wells' comments indicate that he's committed to ensuring that our city responds to a horrific budget deficit in a fair way. I'm a DC resident making more than $100,000, and I'd welcome the opportunity to pay more in taxes if it means mitigating cuts to services that provide vital support for some of my most vulnerable neighbors.

Posted by: kmmi | October 28, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

ConcernaboutDC….you have written some interesting Blogs with good support; however, when it comes to “POCKET BOOK” issues/finance you need to regress.

By increasing taxes on the RICH OR middleclass JUST TELLS THE COUNCIL THAT THEIR ‘IRRESPONSIBLE” SPENDING does not need TO STOP!!!!

CONCERNABOUTDC…you would not continue to give your college son money if he just blows it on partying and girls. You and this council need to learn that money does not grow on trees.

You give to the ever increasing appetite of this council to spend money…and the rest of the resident can use their hard earn funds to fight the HIGH COST OF LIVING, GROCERIES AND UTILITY BILLS.

I AM disappointed in your comment Concernabout D.C. and Oknow1.

Wake up Trusting Citizens

Posted by: CalvinGurley | October 28, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Back to the 90's and Newt. Wells and the socialists, squeeze the "rich" ($200K in DC doesn't go very far), especially if they are white attitude is going to get the city taken over (again) by Congress. Come to think of it, it runs better with Congress in charge. Really.

Posted by: wjc1va | October 28, 2010 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Any "TAX INCREASE" MUST BE FOR ALL and not just for specific groups. Time to end the unfair/unjust system of taxation and go to a flat percentage on ALL income.

The only exemptions/deductions should be medical, 401k/retirement savings and Social Security Income!

Posted by: meadmkr | October 28, 2010 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Declaration of Independence, "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed"

YOU LISTEN YOU COMMUNIST Take from the most producting-give the the slackers and neer-do-wells....YOU LISTEN WELLS. I do not consent to you soak the "rich"...I am not rich and I will not support those who refuse to work..You willl not take a penny more from me.

And along the way you can take 20 rolls of quarters...what it takes to pay a week of the outrageous parking tax instituted by an undemocratic totalitarian group of representativies on the common man..and STUFF THEM UP YOUR B **TT.

Posted by: wjc1va | October 28, 2010 8:31 PM | Report abuse

at some point taxes will have to be raised to help cover the budget shortfalls, service cuts aren't going to help with the shortfalls without adding additional funding sources or raising taxes. just be fair with any service cuts or tax increases so everything dont fall onto one group of DC residents

Posted by: JeroRobson1 | October 28, 2010 11:56 PM | Report abuse

I sorry folks…NO MORE TAX INCREASES!!!!

During the Financial Control Board post era Mayor Wms. “ARTIFICIALLY” increaseD property taxes for several years to zero-out the city’s deficit. Once the deficit was paid off those accumulated increases turned into a $1.5 billion dollar SURPLUS.


1. Tobacco Law Suit ……$750 million dollars

2. Williams $1.5 billion dollar surplus IN ADDITION TO THE 2009, 2008, 2007 BUGET spending.

Anything tangible TO SHOW for the careless spending of $1.5 billion dollars.

ConcernaboutD.C. and OKNOW1 you don't know Dollars or Sense.

Trusting Citizens...Wake Up

Posted by: CalvinGurley | October 29, 2010 12:26 AM | Report abuse

Lipschitzantwon…you don’t know jack about the City Budget and why are you STUCK ON CITY SOCIAL SERVICES??? SOCIAL SERVICES are the least draining factor on the D.C. budget.


Again you don’t attend community meetings, you are not involved in the D.C. Silly Council hearings. Let me update you again. The Silly council has reduced the amount of annual budgeted funds that charitable social programs receive. The legislation was mandated to fund up to $1 million dollars of D.C. budgeted funds per charitable/private social programs/organizations.

Secondly, the Federal Government is the core funding for most if not all of D.C. Social Program funding. Have you heard of Federal “Matching” Funds?

As a matter of fact, Fenty’s executive staff and officials are paid from these varying Federal Funds to support their $250,000 dollars salaries. So, this government needs the poor and the needy in order for the D.C. Government to qualify for Federal Social Program Funds to pay the high salaries of the Mayor’s Staff , Officials and Department Heads.

D.C. does not collect enough taxes to pay the high salaries amounting to $250,000 plus.

Lipschitzantwon…you have to spend more time reading and attending community meetings if you are to “intelligently” submit any comments dealing with DC issues.

Posted by: CalvinGurley | October 29, 2010 12:41 AM | Report abuse

O'Neil founded the newspaper IBD in 1984 to "offer information not available in The Wall Street Journal and other publications" for "investors and business executives who did not have time for two and three section papers each day."

Posted by: smithdavis | October 29, 2010 5:10 AM | Report abuse

Councilmember Evans told the City Council their last budget needed cutting and he would not vote for it. But the silly Council went forward with that budget. Now some are running for office and trying to blame Fenty for the overspending instead of themselves and their own attitude. Mary Cheh asked for $60,000 for Ward 3 businesses and got it. Why? No clear plan to spend the money or no special purpose. Same with Cheh asking for $1.5 million to STUDY pedestrian safety in Cleveland Park, that is 2 blocks along Conn. Ave. Again that is too much money for a study at the same time Ddot is doing another study along Conn. Ave. and in NW. Cheh should have been told NO on both of these expenditures and the money should have been denied.

Posted by: voter20 | October 29, 2010 6:34 AM | Report abuse

having a home and living in d.c. are two different things...
house and senate members live somewhere else and pay taxes in the states they live in, not d.c....
and the really rich, make no income in d.c....
so whats left is to tax the middle class heavily and the poor...

Posted by: DwightCollins | October 29, 2010 6:56 AM | Report abuse

1. Those of you still using the words socialist or communist in your rants, please go the F away. You and your neo-Nazi blustering need to get lost forever .. weren't you crushed in WWII?

2. Statehood? No. What it is time for is for the District to become a city in Maryland. Even Maryland recognizes there are too many local functions that, for the sake of efficiency, should be done once at the state level. In addition to broad savings that could be shared thru a reunion of DC with Maryland .. the people of Chevy Chase could be reunited. Think about it.

Posted by: tslats | October 29, 2010 7:48 AM | Report abuse

increase sales tax on everything to 20%.all pay for whatever they buy.this would require legalizing drugs,which would make da city the wealthiest in the country

Posted by: pofinpa | October 29, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Lipschitzantwon… to your question as to why the DC Gov't has more any employees then any other "city"...well it's because DC funtions as a city, state and county.

Posted by: thelildiva4u | October 29, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

It will be interesting to watch if Councilmember Wells puts his money where his mouth is. His willingness to "protect" the human services cluster has been eratic, at best. Perhaps now that the spotlight is on his comments and his promises to community activists, he will walk the walk. One can always hope.

Posted by: ConcernedMumsie | October 29, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Your SILLY COUNCIL HAS put Developers and big business on the D.C. PAYROLL.

Ward 3 and Ward2 RICH , millionaire residents pay the same amount of taxes as a family making $40,000.00 in the District.

Your councilmember JACK EVANS was just interviewed by Mark Seagraves on Channel 50 AND REPEATED THE SAME disgusting disparity in taxing the poor versus the amount of taxes millionaire tax filers “get-away’ with paying in the District.

This is due to Superman JACK Evans…later about him.

The Rich are not paying their fair share in taxes in the District.

To update you… the Council is split in raising the 8 percent “INCOME” tax rate for millionaires up to 11percent [or more] in an quick attempt to satisfy the pending city’s deficit.

JACK EVANS quickly FOUGHT OFF this attack on his RICH CONSTITUENTS BY countering that only $20 million would be collected from the increase tax rate on the D.C. millionaires. And, dulling this affect by stating ….this kick-in-the-bucket of $20 million new tax revenues to reduced the $300 mill to $280 million is not significant since this ‘unfortunate” increase on the Rich won’t WIPE-OUT the Total $300 mill deficit in ONE SWEEP.

In my accounting book…take what you can get and find the rest later Or that is $20 million less in cuts in social programs, police and fire dept. cuts. HOWEVER!!

Jack Evans…IS and

…………has been THE ONLY council member that WORKS AND PROTECTS THOSE RESIDENTS IN HIS WARD- EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE RICH…and they can afford [would not be financially hurt] to pay their share in taxes for the District.

Those benefits, protection, and exemptions that Evans provides for those Rich folks [even though they don’t need them] IS A CLEAR ILLUSTRATION THAT ….

YOUR COUNCILMEMBER and the Remaining Council members ARE DOING A PISS-POOR JOB in;
1. keeping our property tax rate low like WARDS 3 & 2
2. keeping our taxable income rates like Wards 3 and 2

Vincent Gray, Kwame Brown , Michael Brown, Marion Barry, Harry Thomas, David Catania and Phil Mendelson…
HAVE VOTED TO INCREASE TAX RATES ON THE ALL d.c. RESIDENTS while JACK EVANS made sure that Wards THREE AND Wards TWO tax rates did not increase even by 1% !.

Posted by: CalvinGurley | October 29, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

What ever Tommy wants, tommy gets. Case in point, Tommy rode his bike to the newly remodeled Eastern and it didn't have a bike rack. Therefore, when Tommy didn't have adequate place for his two-wheeler, lo and behold Eastern has a new bike rack placed in front of an antiquated marquee with the 77-million dollar building. So, I am sensing he's the white man who's in charge. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Just think about if DC became a state, no doubt Capitol Hill would be the small city which would house our state capitol and Tommy Wells would be our Govenor.

Posted by: PowerandPride | October 29, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

No way. If DC tries to raise taxes, Congress will repudiate the tax increase and it will be proof that the District isn't really ready for Home Rule. DC has to live within its budget. If Wells doesn't want to cut social services, then he needs to cut payroll (except for schools). DC has far too many employees per capita and that's why it's in the budget mess it's in. This isn't going away until DC gets real.

Posted by: NMGNMG | October 29, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Let's get realistic here. What the level of service provided by the District government and its employees, any raising of taxes will be met with an exodus into Maryland and Virginia.

Let's not fool ourselves. DC has little to offer and a lot of negatives. If people can avoid DC, they do.

This would make it much worse, and business owners will relocate as their customers relocate - they'll have to. DC will be just another Detroit.

Posted by: cibor | October 29, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

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