Despite pressure from lawmakers and labor unions, D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown refused a request Monday to schedule an immediate vote on a plan that would pay District workers for furlough days they were forced to accept last year.
"Why should it come up?" Brown told the Washington Examiner. "Right now, we're focused on the 2013 budget, and that's it."
But the supplemental budget for 2012 has been a sideshow for weeks. With about $80 million in unexpected revenue to spend, Mayor Vincent Gray proposed using up to $22 million to restore compensation for city workers who saw four paid holidays converted to unpaid days as District leaders moved to close a $188 million budget shortfall.
Lawmakers, however, have repeatedly balked at the plan, voting down different versions on three occasions.
The latest proposal, which at-large Councilman Michael Brown crafted and which garnered Gray's backing, would have paid employees immediately and allocated at least $6 million to the city's Housing Production Trust Fund. Millions more would have gone to the D.C. Healthcare Alliance, a city-run health insurance program that largely serves the District's illegal immigrants.
Now, that compromise is on hold, and Kwame Brown said he was planning on a June 5 vote, even though Michael Brown asked for one to take place at Tuesday's long-scheduled meeting.
For Gray, the furlough payments are a politically loaded issue. In 2010, organized labor rallied to back Gray's campaign to unseat then-Mayor Adrian Fenty, and his administration has touted the mayor's proposal to union allies.
"The mayor is trying to carry labor's water here," said political consultant Chuck Thies, who informally advised the Gray campaign. "If anything, Gray is strengthened by this ... It demonstrates to labor that he's willing to go the mat for them."
In recent days, city workers have stepped up their efforts to secure the furlough payments, and an online petition started by local union official Roger Scott has drawn more than 400 signatures.
Ben Butler, the president of the union that represents employees of the District's Department of Parks and Recreation, said Brown's decision surprised him.
"Many of us had the understanding that this was going to take place," Butler said. "I don't know if I'd use the word 'betrayal.' I would simply say that I am very much disappointed."
Brown's move will also delay action on millions of dollars in other spending that Gray sought, including $25 million for D.C. Public Schools."We look forward to working with the council to address the needs of the District's students, residents and workers," mayoral spokesman Pedro Ribeiro said late Monday.