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As the D.C. Council forges the District’s budget for fiscal year 2017, a new poll commissioned by a progressive think tank finds that most residents would prefer more-robust social services for low-income and homeless populations over fewer tax cuts.
The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute has released the results of a survey conducted by Public Policy Polling last week that in effect asked 707 residents about “tax triggers.” Under a package of tax cuts passed recently, the triggers activate whenever D.C.’s revenue exceeds projections during the next few years. The triggers produced about $50 million in tax cuts over the past year, and about $140 million remain, DCFPI says. They affect various income brackets as well as businesses.
The PPP poll found that 57 percent of participants “prefer slowing down tax cuts to fund additional services,” while 29 percent prefer the status quo. Fourteen percent said they weren’t sure.
“It certainly confirms a hunch that we’ve had from previous work that D.C. residents would like to use the benefits of a growing economy and the tax revenues that are coming from that to take care of things like schools and rising challenges such as homelessness,” DCFPI Director Ed Lazere says. “The question becomes when do you impose those tax cuts when you know every dollar of [them] can’t go to things like education and housing?”
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson told the Post last week that he does not intend to delay tax cuts, which will benefit low- and middle-income residents. “What [advocates] don’t understand is that the lost revenues are against future increases, and because they are future increases they are not available for the program,” he said. “If we delayed the trigger then we would not have more money to spend.”
Lazere said slowing down tax cuts wouldn’t free up money for the District to use immediately, but down the road could make more resources available—possibly as soon as next year. “Going forward, we’d like to see the Council take a more balanced approach as revenues rise,” he explained.
Also late last week, a group of local clergy sent the Council a letter demanding greater investments in programs designed to aid the District’s most vulnerable. “The budget currently before you leaves substantial gaps, including inadequate progress to end the moral tragedy of homelessness, incomplete steps to ensure that families with children have a strong safety net from Temporary Assistance to Need Families [or TANF benefits], and more,” they wrote. “While we understand that the overall tax plan does a great deal to reduce taxes for low-income residents, we are concerned that at this moment the Council is considering a budget that cuts taxes for those with the most while inadequately funding services for those with the least.
The D.C. Council will conduct a first vote on the budget on Tuesday.