WASHINGTON — The D.C. Council delivered a final blow to some of outgoing Mayor Vincent Gray’s priorities on Monday by overriding his veto of the city’s $10.6 billion budget.
The council voted 12-1 to override the veto, the same margin by which the budget passed initially. Gray opposed the budget because it reduces funding for the city’s new streetcar system and imposes sales taxes on yoga classes and gym memberships, among other reasons.
Among those voting to override the veto were the two councilmembers vying to replace Gray, Democrat Muriel Bowser and independent David Catania. Bowser defeated Gray, who was weakened by allegations from federal prosecutors that he was elected in 2010 with the help of an illegal slush fund, in the April Democratic primary.
The budget includes the District’s largest income tax cut in 15 years, among other revisions to the tax code that were recommended by an independent panel. The panel also suggested the so-called “yoga tax” as part of an effort to capture more tax revenue from non-residents. Catania and Bowser were among the councilmembers who tried to strip that tax from the budget, citing concerns about taxing health and fitness, but their effort was unsuccessful.
Council Chairman Phil Mendelson defended the yoga tax, saying the package of reforms will reduce the overall tax burden for District residents by hundreds of dollars.
Councilmember Marion Barry, a former four-term mayor, used the veto override to sharply criticize the planned streetcar system, which Gray’s office said would be gutted by funding cuts included in the council’s budget. Among the sites where the mayor wants to see streetcar service is the planned location for a new soccer stadium for D.C. United. The stadium deal, another project that Gray hopes will be part of his legacy, also faces an uncertain future given his lame-duck status.
Barry said District taxpayers would be spending $2,000 to subsidize each ride on the only existing streetcar line, which has yet to open after years of planning and construction.
“It’s a streetcar to nowhere,” the former mayor said.
Gray also cited the lack of full funding for a bill that would waive property taxes for some elderly, longtime residents as a reason for his veto. But Councilmember Anita Bonds, the author of that bill, was among those who voted to override the veto.
“I am disappointed that the council did not see fit to work with me to craft a reasonable compromise that serves the best interest of District residents,” Gray said in a statement.
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