Biddle walks back from taxing the rich
D.C. Council member Sekou Biddle now says he does not support raising taxes on six-figure District residents, seeking to clarify comments he made earlier in the week to The Washington Post.
Biddle, an interim member who must stand for election April 26, issued a statement Thursday saying he will not support a tax increase this year, at least for now.
"I do not support a tax hike on businesses, individuals or households making above $125,000," Biddle (D-At Large) said. "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."
On Tuesday, Biddle told The Washington Post that his first priority would be working with his colleagues to cut the budget to try to close an estimated $400 million to $600 million shortfall.
But in a conflicting series of statements, Biddle said he thought the council would also have to look to higher taxes to balance the budget. The interview highlighted Biddle's inexperience in trying to navigate the political minefields associated with the tax debate in a city with both large numbers of needy residents and some of the highest concentrations of wealth in the country.
"We have to figure out is there is anything we can cut that is not a need, and then we will fill the hole with fees and taxes somehow," Biddle said Tuesday. "I would rather drop, frankly, the tax rate for the lowest wage earners in the city first. The whole notion for them being disproportionately burdened with taxes I think is right, so why are we are on their backs? Let's give them a break and recoup the money somewhere else."
Biddle then cautioned that his primary energy would be spent on cutting the budget, but he quickly added, "I'm willing to [raise taxes] at the end of the process."
When asked Tuesday whom he would consider raising taxes on, Biddle replied, "My preference would be at $125,000, because that is what we make." On Wednesday, he reiterated to the Washington Examiner that he would consider raising taxes on people who make at least $125,000 if the council concludes it cannot cut enough from the budget.
But in the statement issued Thursday, Biddle sought to put distance between himself and the tax debate.
"Being responsible stewards means reducing waste, creating efficiencies and balancing the budget without raising taxes," said Biddle, who faces more than a half-dozen opponents in the special election. "The most recent audit of the District's budget revealed that there are numerous examples of waste in government. The council should share the burden of fixing this problem by considering cuts to its own budget."
| February 17, 2011; 1:55 PM ET
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