The Budget Vote is Tomorrow: Keep Critical Programs Off the Chopping Block!
Tomorrow, DC Council Chairman Vincent Gray and his 12 council colleagues will unveil their priorities for the upcoming year by voting on the Fiscal Year 2011 budget. Right now, that agenda includes severe cuts to some very critical services that can help our city move forward out of this devastating recession. As of Tuesday morning, the Council’s proposal slashes more than $4 million from emergency rental assistance and two other programs that help families live in safe and decent housing, $2 million from grandparent caregivers, and $7 million from disabled residents who cannot work. (To see a complete list, click here.)
Is there still time to make a better budget? Yes—but the Council needs to hear from you TODAY. Calling and e-mailing your council members can make a difference. They need to hear that you support a fair and responsible budget. We’re happy to help with a list of council phone numbers and emails here.
DCFPI, along with dozens of local organizations and residents, supports the efforts of DC Council members Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and Michael Brown (I-At-Large), who are urging their colleagues to support a high-earners’ tax to help fund these important programs. A high-earners’ tax would add critical revenue to our budget not just this year, but next year and beyond.
There have been several proposals of how to structure the tax, but let’s take one proposed to start at $350,000. Two important things to note: This means that the tax would apply to DC filers with taxable income (income minus tax deductions, tax credits, etc.) above $350,000. Also married couples can split income and file separately in DC, so it would apply to $350,000 of individual taxable income, not household income.
Why a high-income tax? Right now, a DC resident making $40,000 in taxable income pays the same tax rate of 8.5 percent as a DC resident making $1 million. What does that mean? According to experts, taxes take a much bigger chunk out of the paychecks of middle-class DC residents than millionaires. Here’s a few numbers: Those making $33,000 to $57,000 pay 10.5 percent of their income in tax. Those making above $250,000? About 7 percent.
That’s a big difference.
We all want the District of Columbia to be the world-class city that Mayor Fenty aspires toward. Yet the proposed budget the mayor sent to the Council cut funding to many of the programs that help our neighbors move toward that goal: Money to help grandparents provide a loving home for their grandchildren. Emergency rent money to keep DC families in safe housing and off the streets. Assistance to help disabled residents who cannot work from being destitute.
In speaking at an event last month, DC Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray said, “We’ve tried to protect the safety net programs as the top priority and we will continue to do that.” We take the chairman at his word. The council has made some changes to the mayor’s budget to restore funding, and we know he will keep this top priority in mind over these next 24 hours to craft a fair and responsible budget for his colleagues to vote on tomorrow.
The recession has had a crushing impact not only on DC families, but on DC’s budget. The proposed budget for 2011 is $600 million lower than in 2008. These are tough times, in which our elected leaders need to be fiscally prudent and responsible. We need to keep our focus on long-term goals of moving toward recovery and helping all our residents get back on their feet. Haphazard budget cutting will not move us toward that goal. We need to keep key investments in areas such as health and housing to do that.