Meeting DC’s Challenges, Maintaining Fiscal Discipline: Introduction and Overview

This year, the District is witnessing one of the largest changes in its political leadership since the advent of Home Rule: a new mayor, a new chair of the DC Council, and five other new council members.

The good news is that these leaders are inheriting a city that has become far more stable since Mayor Williams took office in 1998.  Instead of budget deficits, we now have budget surpluses. The District’s economy has benefited from a commercial and residential real estate boom, and the DC population is increasing after falling for many years. Economic growth has allowed the city to adopt tax cuts as well to make investments in housing, school facilities, health care, and public safety, among others. 

At the same time, there also are many signs that economic progress has left many DC residents behind.  While the number of jobs within DC’s boundaries increased by 30,000 between 2000 and 2005, the number of working DC residents fell by 15,000.  DC’s unemployment rate is higher than in most large cities, and this is especially troubling considering that the entire metro area has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation.  Despite this strong economy, the number of DC residents living in poverty rose by 11,000 last year.

This six-part series offers a number of ideas from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute on ways to maintain the District’s fiscal strength while also working to bridge the city’s large economic divide.  The report is broken into six sections and reflects the DC Fiscal Policy Institute’s areas of focus.  It includes both background information and policy suggestions in the following areas:

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, and undoubtedly there are many pressing issues facing the District that are not included here.  We hope, however, that this report will help inform policy discussions in selected areas in the near term.