Approved DC Budget Includes Important Investments But Tax Cuts Limited the Progress

The DC budget for fiscal year 2018, adopted yesterday on a first vote, includes important investments to protect vulnerable children, support schools, and help residents experiencing homelessness get into a home of their own. Mayor Bowser and the DC Council deserve credit for budget choices that will make a big difference in the lives of DC residents and will help build a stronger future for the District.

However, the debate over the FY 2018 budget—and the outcomes—also remind us of how much more we should be doing to help all DC residents live up to their potential and to make sure everyone benefits from a growing economy. The budget leaves schools with less than they really need to help students succeed, falls short of the goal of ending long-term homelessness, makes no progress in helping families move from the housing wait list to a home, provides too little to ensure that infants and toddlers can be in high-quality child care, and maintains barriers to health insurance for thousands of residents.

The decision by the mayor and council to allow $100 million in tax cuts contributed to these shortcomings. Over the last few years, DCFPI advocated that the Council implement the Tax Commission’s recommendations with a more progressive approach, one that struck a better balance between tax cuts and important services, and stopped the least justified cuts for the wealthy and big business.

Councilmembers David Grosso, Elissa Silverman, Brianne Nadeau, and Trayon White deserve credit for encouraging their colleagues to stop an estate tax cut for the District’s wealthiest and instead make investments that will help our growing city to thrive, and ensure that our prosperity is shared among all District residents. Councilmember Silverman said that “the District is only getting wealthier, but we have a lot of people who are challenged to live in our city. And what’s pushing them out? It’s not the estate tax that’s pushing them out. High housing costs are pushing them out. The incredibly high cost of child care is pushing them out, and a school system that’s not meeting the needs of their children is pushing them out.”  And Councilmember Grosso urged, “let us not only focus on commitments to cut taxes, but also our commitments to end homelessness, reduce mass incarceration, and ensure a high-quality education for every child in the district of Colombia.”