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Budget Expert and At-Large Candidate Sounds Off On DC Budget Failures

July 6, 2020 — A budget is a moral document. Budget choices, especially now, can save lives and change futures. With less than a day before it votes on the budget, the DC Council has taken some steps to help residents and businesses suffering in the pandemic, but also has left gaping needs unmet. Meanwhile, the Council has ignored opportunities to find resources, like closing costly and ineffective tax loopholes, that could address the city’s urgent challenges.

Residents are demanding bold changes to address systemic racism and gaping economic inequities. A status quo budget is unacceptable. 

The Council has a chance to extend a hand to residents who have lost all income, to students who cannot participate in remote learning because they don’t have a computer at home. Failing to help these residents, while sitting on resources, is a moral and societal failure.

Here are some of the biggest failures in the budget right now:

  • Not closing the digital divide for students: The mayor and Council have not devoted enough resources to ensure all students have a computer at home when a computer is essential to distance learning. $11 million more is needed for our students. 
  • Offering no lifeline to excluded workers:  Thousands of immigrants, sex workers, and others can’t get unemployment benefits, and the Council has found just $5 million to help them in FY 2021, only about $200 per person. An additional $25 million is needed for these vulnerable residents.
  • Leaving our child care industry to falter: The Council found just $1.4 million to keep child care providers from closing their doors, while not reversing a $5 million child care subsidy cut proposed by the mayor. $20 million is needed to save our child care industry and support families.

These shortcomings are inexcusable given the many options available to find more resources. 

  • Closing corporate loopholes: For 20 years, DC’s leaders have kept in place the Qualified High Technology Company tax subsidies, despite evidence that they don’t work. Due to pressure from advocates, the Council started to scale them back in 2019. It should fully eliminate these loopholes.
  • Raising Revenues from wealthy residents: Millionaires in DC face a tax rate barely above what middle-class residents pay, and a poll just released by DC Fiscal Policy Institute and D.C. Action for Children that  83% of DC residents support raising taxes on the wealthy. Yet the Council has taken no steps to raise taxes on those who are prospering during the pandemic.
  • Reducing the police budget further: I was one of more than 15,000 DC residents who contacted the Council urging action on the police budget, to divest from militarized policing in order to invest in our communities. Yet the Council’s actions so far have failed to meet this moment.

Now more than ever, DC residents are demanding bold leadership to address the intertwined crises of COVID-19, police brutality, and widening economic and racial inequality. Even in the pandemic, DC remains a prosperous city with resources to help residents in need. We must demand that the Council use its budget powers boldly to address our unprecedented challenges. 

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Paid for by Ed Lazere for DC Council At-Large, P.O. Box 4563, Washington, DC 20017. Joslyn “Jos” Williams, Treasurer. A copy of our report is filed with the Director of Campaign Finance of the District of Columbia Board of Elections.

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