Mayor Gray’s proposed fiscal year 2015 budget should prioritize resources for the District’s biggest challenges: maintaining and creating affordable housing, particularly for our low-income and most vulnerable households; raising outcomes in all our public schools by closing the achievement gap; and putting supports in place so that the city’s economy works for everyone. Today’s budget release is a first draft of a plan for the future that will be refined over the next eight weeks by the DC Council. DCFPI will be focusing our efforts on adequate funding for programs and services that help reduce income inequality and allow all residents to share in prosperity.
The District has the fourth highest level of income inequality among major U.S. cities. While at one time a DC resident could find employment that paid enough to support a family with a high school education, those jobs and opportunities are dwindling. Wages for residents without higher education are falling, and nearly one-in-five DC residents without a high school diploma are unemployed. The lack of opportunities coupled with skyrocketing housing prices are pushing more and more families into difficult situations, including homelessness.
Here is what DCFPI is looking to see in the mayor’s proposed budget:
- A Safe and Affordable Place to Call Home for All. The spike in family homelessness this winter has shed light on the monumental problems in DC’s homeless services system and the consequences of a lack of affordable housing opportunities. In his State of the District address, Mayor Gray announced his budget for next year will include at least $100 million in funds for affordable housing. DCFPI wants to see adequate funds to help chronically homeless residents get housing and supportive services, for rental assistance that goes directly to very low-income families, and to help address the family homelessness crisis.
- A Quality Education for All. Mayor Gray also announced $116 million in additional funds for education, including new money to support at-risk children. DCFPI will be looking to see that those funds are transparent and spent on the kinds of services that create a robust education system, including afterschool, summer school, school mental health, school health clinics and assistance for homeless students.
- A Tax System That Levels the Playing Field. Right now, DC’s middle-income residents pay the highest share of the income in DC taxes. DCFPI will be looking to see the mayor adopts key recommendations of the tax revision commission: an income tax rate cut for middle-income households, as well as a boost in the personal exemption and standard deduction. This will exempt working poor families from owing DC income tax and increase the effectiveness of DC’s earned income tax credit for lower-income working residents. It also will provide substantial tax benefits to working families with incomes above poverty level, but who are still struggling to afford the city’s high cost of living.
Policy Director Jenny Reed will be available for comment on specifics of the mayor’s budget at 202-907-3668 or firstname.lastname@example.org.