Jack Evans Report
In my last newsletter, I took some time to reflect on our accomplishments from the past year. This week, I want to discuss a few of my New Year’s Resolutions. As Chairman of the Council’s Committee on Finance & Revenue, my central goals for the year relate to the District’s finances.
First, it is important to me to lower the top personal income tax rate in the District to our prior rate of 8.5 percent. As a government, we continue to shoot ourselves in the foot when it comes to attracting and retaining new residents and small businesses. We can raise money in the short term by perpetually increasing taxes and fees, as my colleagues prefer to do. But when we create disincentives for new businesses to locate here, we do more harm than good down the road.
Second, it is important to me to reduce the expenditures of the District government. I am the first member to champion programs that actually work, such as the Housing Production Trust Fund. Unfortunately, many of our District dollars are not spent so wisely, and we have to make strategic cuts in order to balance our budget going forward.
Third, after we make those cuts, I want to make sure that the savings we achieve are put into the District’s savings account rather than doled right back out in earmarks and other new, wasteful spending. Despite all the complaints I heard from my colleagues about all the supposed budget cuts we made last year, the simple fact is that we passed the largest budget in the District’s history. In addition to saving for a rainy day, our reserve account also supports our bond rating, which is critical for allowing the government to borrow for needed capital improvements to schools and other important projects at affordable rates.
Fourth, I want to move forward quickly with the mayor to constitute the Tax Revision Commission and the Real Property Tax Appeals Commission. The Tax Revision Commission will give a thoughtful look at the District’s tax structure. Unfortunately, the only time tax policy typically comes up in the legislative setting is when a member is looking for a way to raise money for a pet project he or she wants funded. The goal of the Tax Revision Commission will be to make more principled recommendations based on sound tax policy rather than pragmatic spending priorities.
The Real Property Tax Appeals Commission, in contrast, focuses more on the mechanics of collecting taxes. A substantial portion of the District’s revenue comes from real property tax collections, and there have been a number of complaints with regard to inconsistency in the administrative appeals process. The Real Property Tax Appeals Commission was established with the goal of professionalizing the appeals process and ensuring greater fairness and transparency.
In closing, I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and are making progress on your resolutions for 2012. The holidays always seem to go by a little too quickly, but I am excited about the year ahead and all we will accomplish together.