When You Wish Upon A Budget: Gray’s Priority List Makes Sense Amidst Proposed Cuts
We all make wishes. Sometimes we wish for something magical, like the Redskins winning the Super Bowl. Sometimes we just wish for things to work out, like hoping an unemployed friend gets that job. For next year’s DC budget, Mayor Gray has made a wish of his own, a list of 25 programs he hopes to fund if the District’s revenue collections grow beyond current projections in Fiscal Year 2013. DCFPI hopes the DC Council keeps the list as part of the budget, with a few tweaks.
It is decidedly not a list of luxury items. Instead, the mayor’s wish list would restore services that are on the chopping block this year or have been in recent years, including programs in health care, affordable housing, domestic violence services, and library collections. It also would provide more money for important reforms, such as boosting the employment services part of DC’s welfare-to-work program.
The wish list is contained in the Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Support Act, under the title, “Revised Revenue Estimate Contingency Priority List.” The list has 25 items that add up to $120 million. (See the full list below.) DC Fiscal Policy Institute does not love every item on the list, but overall, we believe it reflects important priorities. Here’s what the revenue priority list would do, if improved tax collections move the list from wishes to reality:
Restore Cuts to Important Programs. The proposed FY 2013 budget includes cuts to homeless services, even as the District struggles with a surge in homelessness among families with children. The budget also includes a deep cut to the city’s locally-funded health insurance program, DC HealthCare Alliance, and a 50 percent cut to the city’s best way to finance affordable housing construction—the Housing Production Trust Fund. The wish list would restore these and other cuts, including domestic violence services.
- Support Critical Initiatives. The revenue priority list would provide resources for a major re-design of the city’s TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) program for families with children. The new program aims to better identify the employment needs of parents and provide better training services, but its rollout will be slowed without additional funds. The revenue priority list also would add funding for early identification of learning delays among young children, DC’s growing community college, and school-based mental health staff, and several other key programs.
The mayor’s list is not perfect. Item number six would restore a tax break for interest earned on out-of-state municipal bonds. DC just eliminated this tax break last year, with significant protections for current bondholders. If the tax break comes back, DC will be the only jurisdiction with a blanket tax break for investing in another state’s infrastructure. There is no reason to put this on the list, let alone ahead of things identifying children with developmental delays.
The revenue priority list does not include frills. For the most part, it would not create new programs or services. It would simply help maintain services that are critical to the well-being of the District, including human services programs that have been hard hit in the Great Recession.
That’s something we all can wish for.
- $7 million for Homeless Services to replace loss of federal funding
- $14.7 million for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Employment Program
- $23 million to restore the Healthcare Alliance
- $20 million to restore the Housing Production Trust Fund
- $2.6 million to restore for Victim Services
- $1.1 million to repeal tax on out-of-state bonds
- $8.6 million to Office of State Superintendent for infant and toddler services
- $5 million for OSSE special education
- $1.6 to Department of Human Services to cover loss of federal Family Services Block Grant
- $2.9 million to Housing Production Assistance Program
- $1.9 million for school-based mental health initiatives
- $10 million for business property tax relief
- $2.4 million for contractually mandated increases in homeless services
- $6.5 million for the Community College of the District of Columbia
- $3.0 million for the University of the District of Columbia
- $1.4 million to restore the small business technical assistance program
- $1.5 million for the Ward 8 Pilot Budget Challenge
- $1 million to restore library acquisitions
- $300,000 for the Department of Corrections’ Career Ladder promotions
- $540,000 to expand the Fire Cadet program
- $1 million for the Sustainable DC pilot
- $3 million for the commission on Arts and Humanities
- $77,000 for the Office of Aging, Senior Villages Coordinator
- $1 million for Destination DC/Events DC advertising and marketing
- $320,000 to restore the Capital City Fellows program