Passing A Budget in Difficult Times
Given recent events and the attendant media scrutiny on the Council, I wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the positive things our government is doing and assure you all that I will continue to work hard for my constituents and the city as a whole. On Tuesday, June 5, the Council had its second and final vote on the Budget Support Act, and I think that it was a definitive improvement over last year’s budget and I want to highlight a few areas of interest.
First, I was pleased that this year’s budget proposal included no tax increases. One of the primary reasons I was unable to support last year’s budget was the inclusion of unnecessary tax increases to support our ever-expanding government. I believe the Mayor and my colleagues should find efficiencies within the agencies they oversee rather than asking our residents to pay continually higher taxes in the face of a recession. We are the only local government in the country to continue to pass the largest budget in our history every year despite the economic slowdown.
Within my committee, for example, I was able, in consultation with our Chief Financial Officer, to identify millions of dollars of unallocated funding through savings achieved in the Gallery Place tax increment refinancing. I was pleased to allocate some of these funds toward enhanced arts programming, which fills a gap in our public education system and supports our small business community. I also recommended additional funding toward marketing dollars that encourages additional tourism in the District. Studies have shown that both of these uses of government funds generate several dollars in new tax revenues for each dollar spent, which increases the pool of money we have for other items of importance to me, such as our libraries, parks, public safety, and education.
Another very positive development is that we were able to push back the implementation of the municipal bond tax another year. If you recall, the initial bond tax proposal initially considered last year would have been retroactive to interest earned on or after January 1, 2011. This was a shocking and unfair proposal. After some amendments, the tax was subsequently set to go into effect for interest earned on or after January 1, 2012, to be included in one’s tax filing in the spring of 2013 if a taxpayer files on an annual basis. As a result of the fiscal year 2012 supplemental budget bill, which we also passed on Tuesday, we were able to push back implementation an additional year, to interest earned beginning January 1, 2013, for inclusion in your tax filing in the spring of 2014. This is great in and of itself, as it provides relief for another year of this tax, and it also gives us another opportunity to seek to fully repeal the tax in next year’s budget prior to it taking effect. While I was disappointed that the municipal bond tax was not fully repealed in the budget, particularly after I had identified approximately $800,000 of the $1.1 million necessary for this repeal within my own committee, I am still hopeful for full repeal the next time we revisit the budget.
Thank you for all your letters of support during this difficult time, and let me again commit to you that our work will remain uninterrupted as we move forward with selecting an interim Council Chair pending a special election. ★