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Mayor Vince Gray hasn’t said whether he intends to run for re-election yet, but the proposed budget he released today sure looks like something an incumbent seeking to retain office might put out.
Councilmembers were heaping praise on the mayor today, thanking him for addressing seemingly all of their wards, their issues and their pet projects. Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, who says he’s running for mayor, wasn’t even at the Wilson Building today but still asked Gray to read a statement at a news conference praising the proposed budget.
Some of the goodies include:
- $100 million Gray wants to spend on affordable housing, with $87 million being put towards the Housing Production Trust fund in an effort to spur more construction of cheaper living units in the city
- More than $140 million on new library construction, including $103 million on renovating downtown’s MLK Library
- Repealing the unpopular tax on out-of-District municipal bonds passed two years ago, which will undoubtedly make Ward 3 retirees happy
- $50 million for “park space in NoMa; “$20 million for the Fort Dupont ice rink; $18 million for renovations at Southeast Tennis and Learning Center
- $400 million for the streetcar program
- $10.7 million to expand bike lanes
- $56 million to give raises to city government employees
- And, last but certainly not least: New “supercan” garbage bins for everyone!
Some agencies would see double-digit yearly percentage increases under Gray’s budget. Gray has pledged to reform the Office of Contracting and Procurement by beefing up staffing and increasing employee training. Its yearly budget would increase by 33 percent under Gray’s proposal. D.C. Public Libraries’ budget would go up 23 percent; the Department of Human Services budget would go up 11 percent.
Of course, it’s easy to spend money when you have a lot to spend. These days, D.C. is flush with cash and looks to be for a long time coming. As for those high District taxes people like to complain about, Gray says his budget has no new taxes or new fees. But he said he’s going to let a tax commission headed by former Mayor Tony Williams do its work before he considers reducing any tax rates. Gray, who pushed through an income-tax increase on the wealthy two years ago to close a budget gap, sounded like a supply-side guy today, saying the best way to raise money is through making D.C. more business-friendly and competitive. “We can grow tax revenues without raising our tax rates,” he said.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery