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Posted at 9:25 AM ET, 02/16/2011

D.C. council member Sekou Biddle eyes tax hike for $125,000-plus wage earners

By Tim Craig
Tim Craig

The District's newest council member, Sekou Biddle (D-At large), said Tuesday he will likely support a tax increase on the wealthy this year to help balance the budget, perhaps even on those who make as little as $125,000 per year.

In an interview with the Washington Post after Tuesday's council meeting, Biddle said he will work with his colleagues to try to identify savings to close a shortfall in the fiscal year 2012 budget that is estimated to between $400 million and $600 million.

But Biddle, an interim council member who must stand for election in an April 26 citywide vote, said he fully expects the 13-member council will also have to take up a tax increase.

"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," said Biddle, adding he would also like to explore ways to lower taxes on low and middle income residents.

For the past two years, several council members have pushed to an increase the city's top 8.5 percent income tax rate on the wealthy to avoid deep cuts to social service programs. Most of the proposals, including those advanced by council members Michael Brown (D-At large) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), set the bar for "wealthy" at individual or couples who file jointly with incomes of at least $200,000 annually.

Biddle, however, said he would be wary of any proposal that does not also raise taxes on council members. They make $125,000 annually.

"I'm trying to avoid I am going to tax someone other than myself," Biddle said. "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."

His support for a potential tax increase could have an impact on the budget debate at city hall. In December, the council fell just two votes short of enacting a tax increase on residents who earn at least $200,000 annually.

Biddle was appointed by the D.C. Democratic State Committee last month to the seat previously held by new Council Chairman Kwame Brown (D), pending a special election. Brown has generally been reluctant to consider tax increases. The chairman replaced Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), who also resisted tax increase proposals.

But Biddle won't be on the council to vote on the budget if he does not win the April 26 special election, where at least a half-dozen candidates from both parties are likely to be on the ballot.

On Monday, Democrat Josh Lopez also announced support for raising taxes on high-income residents. Lopez endorsed the move even though his political mentor, former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), campaigned last year against higher taxes.

"I have my own set of ideas and my own beliefs," said Lopez, adding he would only consider a tax increase on residents who make at least $200,000 a year.

All this tax talk from Democrats could help school board member Patrick Mara, the lone Republican in the race, distinguish himself from his opponents.

"I will draw a clear line on not raising taxes," Mara said in a Feb. 2 online chat with the readers of the Greater Greater Washington blog. "Raising any tax condones the reckless spending of the past. Everybody on the Council knew these tough economic times were around the corner but we continued on with bloated budgets."

Biddle said he's not worried about Mara's stance, saying voters are worried about "better schools and safer neighborhoods."

"We are going to create an environment where people cannot only survive but thrive," he said.

By Tim Craig  | February 16, 2011; 9:25 AM ET
Categories:  2010 District Election, Budget, Josh Lopez, Joshua Lopez, Sekou Biddle, Tim Craig, Vincent C. Gray  
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Next: Biddle walks back from taxing the rich


"I'm trying to avoid I am going to tax someone other than myself," Biddle said.

What kind of incoherent gibberish is this? Councilman could you please formulate a complete, logic sentence.

Posted by: zsg2010 | February 16, 2011 12:21 PM | Report abuse

"I'm trying to avoid I am going to tax someone other than myself," Biddle said.

What kind of incoherent gibberish is this? Councilman could you please formulate a complete, logical sentence.

Posted by: zsg2010 | February 16, 2011 12:21 PM | Report abuse

This is a song about taxes
Sales, income, property
What are the rest?

Before we sing about taxes
What's the difference in a tax and a fee
I guess it does not really matter
When it is Government and your money

They want to tax your car
Want to tax your gas
Want to tax your utilities
Phone, internet, cable and electricity

They want to tax you when you come
Want to tax you when you go
Want to tax you when the sun's shining
Raining or in the snow

This is a song about taxes
City, county, state
And the federal government with a changing rate

They want to tax your drivers license
Want to tax your license plate
Want to tax your airline ticket at every airport gate

They want to tax you when you hunt
Want to tax you when you fish
They want to tax you anyway they can
Ain't that a _itch
Taxing situation
What would the Founding Fathers say

Your in a taxing situation
Have another tea party

They want to tax the cigarettes
Want to tax the booze
Even want to tax my water and food

This is a song about taxes
Impuestos in Espanol
Sabes mi amigo

They want to tax your house
Want to tax your land
Even want to tax your building plans

they've got
import, export, excise
inheritance, luxury
its all about
from people like you and me.

This is song about taxes
What would the Founding Fathers say
Your in a taxing situation
Have another tea party

This is a song about taxes
Just what do you get?
More over-dressed, over-paid

This is a song about taxes
Just what do you get?
More police officers
To write you more tickets

This is a song about taxes
Just what do you get?
I'll tell you one that you don't
Guaranteed health benefits

This is a song about taxes
Just what do you get?
If you do not pay them on time
Your going to get interest

They want to tax you when you travel
Hotel, motel tax
They want to tax on a toll road
And to park in a parking ramp

This is a song about taxes
Going to be a part two song
Send your comments to

This is a song about taxes
And they even want to tax my dog.

Posted by: OutOfState | February 16, 2011 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Unreal, more taxes without cutting the crap out of the base budget. Give me 3 hours with a detailed line item budget and I assure you I could find the $400 million.

Posted by: overtaxedindc | February 16, 2011 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Patrick Mara's Republican credentials are showing. Let's oppose all tax increases but then doesn't explain whose ox he is going to gore when it comes time to cut the budget. On the national level the Republican Congress is talking about cutting over $200 million from DC's budget allocation. Metro funds, veterans housing, not letting us spend money on needle exchange, money from the court system etc. Is it a wonder that when the Democratic President includes these things in his budget the District remains fully in the Democratic column.

There is nothing wrong with a small tax increase, on a temporary basis, if it is combined with a stringent budget. That is what I expect the DC Council to do.

Posted by: peterdc | February 16, 2011 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Before raising taxes, Mayor Gray and the Council MUST MAKE A CONCERTED EFFORT to collect business taxes that are already on the books and eliminate fraud, waste, and abuse already identified by the executive and legislative branches namely through the DC Auditor and Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reports.

How can the gap of $400 - $600 million be closed?

1. $300m of unpaid, uncollected parking tickets. Establishing an amnesty program like the Office of Tax and Revenue has done recently can help recoup some significant portion of the $300m.

2. Collect $20m per annum from the possessory interest tax to businesses. Approx. $25m was uncollected in FY10. CM Evans proposed allowing Union Station get a $34m freebie. DC needs to enforce the law and collect. Tell CM Evans to implement effective oversight.

3. Reign in overtime at Dept of Public Works (DPW), Fire & Emergency Services (FEMS), Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) and other wasteful, abusive agencies. The city auditors, namely the OIG, have researched the abuse and fraud by dept managers when approving overtime. While overtime is necessity it is not an entitlement that employees should expect to supplement their base salary.

4. Eliminate fraud by removing VA, MD residents off the TANF and food stamp rolls through more stringent residency verification controls.

5. Eliminate waste by ceasing the practice of housing the region's homeless during hypothermia and throughout the year through more stringent residency verification controls.

6. Eliminate waste by installing motion lights in all DC buildings that are on 24hrs-7days per week, especially in the bathrooms. Private sector commercial buildings implement this green, cost-effective approach to save on costs.

7. Enhance efficient gov't workforce development by completing jurisdictional comparison of city employees per capita (e.g. target the Office of the Atty General employees, MPD civilian, non-patrol service employees, OCFO, etc). Indeed DC has state functions but how do we compare to Delaware, CT, RI and on other states on a per capita basis. Currently, the DC gov't has about 20 employees per resident and that excludes contract employees. Mayor Barry expanded DC gov't. How much should it contract? Mayor Fenty eliminated 3,000 reportedly redundant, non-crucial positions. How many will Mayor Gray eliminate?

These are just a few of many ways to close the gap before raising taxes.

It's a fact that Mayor Fenty and Chairman Gray submitted on OCFO-certified balance budget for 4 years. We'll never know what budget Mayor Fenty might have proposed for FY12.... Regardless, raising taxes without performing due diligence is the lazy approach that the DC government should not take. And taking such an irresponsible approach is not deserving of the $100K+ salaries Council members and high-level executive branch receive...from taxpayer dollars.

Posted by: jmc39 | February 17, 2011 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Biddle does not know his left from right!
Biddle will NOT get my Vote!

Posted by: asil7981 | February 19, 2011 1:49 AM | Report abuse

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