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Posted at 2:56 PM ET, 12/15/2010

Debating the District's deficit: Tommy Wells

By Martin Austermuhle

During last week's debate over how to close a $188 million budget deficit for the current fiscal year, members of the D.C. Council debated two separate proposals which would have increased income taxes for certain District residents as a means to save social programs that were facing severe funding cutbacks. Neither of the two proposals -- the first offered by Councilmembers Harry Thomas, Jr. (D-Ward 5), Michael A. Brown (I-At Large) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), and the second by Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) -- succeeded, both failing on 8-5 votes.

But while various members of the Council, including Mayor-elect Vince Gray and Chair-elect Kwame Brown, voted against the tax hikes, a certain openness to the idea seemed evident, even amongst the naysayers. Brown defended his opposition by arguing that no hearings had been held on the proposals, while Gray and Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) wanted to make sure that all possible cuts had been made before any taxes were raised.

The brief debate in and outside of the Council chambers this December serves as an interesting guide as to what might happen in April 2011, when Gray will have to craft a budget that responds to an estimated deficit of $400 to $500 million. To get a better sense of what's at stake, we sat down with Wells and Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) to get a better sense of the competing arguments that will likely define a key questions faced by our elected officials -- will they keep cutting, or will they eventually have to raise taxes?

Continue reading this piece by Martin Austermuhle here at

Martin Austermuhle blogs at DCist. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Martin Austermuhle  | December 15, 2010; 2:56 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., D.C. politics, HotTopic, Local blog network  
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