A plan by Mayor Vincent Gray to compensate city workers for four days of forced furloughs last year, has been defeated (7-5) by the D.C. Council.
The measure, which was pushed through for a vote by Council Chairman Kwame Brown, involved a $22 million plan for the Presidents Day, Emancipation Day, Memorial Day and Fourth of July holidays which the workers weren't paid in order to close a $188 million gap in the city budget. But a $64,000 surplus was reported the latter part of 2011 and Gray was looking to compensate workers from those coffers.
"We are disappointed the Council has failed to approve this critical legislation," Gray spokesman Pedro Ribeiro, said in an interview. Ribeiro added that the vote was "immensely short-sighted and highly irresponsible."
There had been two versions of the proposal: One would have allowed workers to be immediately paid for the four days, and the other sought payment to the tune of $11 million for just two of the holidays. The rest of the money would have been earmarked for health care and housing initiatives. Employees would have received compensation for the remaining two days after revenue estimates had been made.
While At-Large Council member Michael Brown, described the defeat as a loss for "everybody," Kwame Brown said he had been committed to moving the surplus to a vote.
But he said the Council just wasn't satisfied with the measure.
"Some [Council] members believed that the affordable housing money was cut and that employees [looking for such housing] might not be able to participate in that program," the chairman said. He also said that passing the vote would have left many residents without health insurance, and that money earmarked for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) recipients -- the city's poorest residents -- would likewise be reduced.
"We had was a lot of [Council] members with priorities, trying to make sure that they represented their constituency groups," Kwame Brown said. "We were committed to moving the measure through for the mayor, but it didn't get enough votes to pass."