Last night, Mayor Vince Gray took the stage with four D.C. business leaders to moderate a D.C. Chamber of Commerce panel titled “Digital City: Transforming DC into a Tech Capital.” Chamber CEO Barbara Lang thanked Gray for his regular moderation of the panels—-she said he moderated them as Council chairman, then asked to continue when he became mayor. Once the panel got underway, it was clear why: He used it as an opportunity to collect ideas for solving the problems that keep him up at night—-and particularly one: that pesky Council that won’t give him the angel investor tax cut he wants.
Gray’s proposal would cut the capital gains tax paid by local angel investors who invest in D.C. tech companies from 8.95 percent to 3 percent. But Council dropped the proposal from a broader tech incentives bill it passed last fall. Ever since, the Gray administration has been pushing to resurrect it.
The mayor’s first question to the panel last night was one the business executives were at a loss to answer: How can I get those stubborn councilmembers to change their minds?
The panelists danced around the question, but Gray reiterated it several more times, taking a few jabs at the Council in the process. “Some of the points were preposterous, in terms of the responses to it,” he said, echoing comments he made at a tech summit in November, when he said Council didn’t understand the bill.
He thanked Lang for walking the halls of Council to advocate for the bill but said that Council heard from many more uninformed people who were opposed to the measure. “You look out and see one voice, and a bunch of other voices that may not be enlightened,” he said.
Gray pointed out that Maryland’s capital gains tax in this area is 5.75 percent, while Virginia’s is zero, making it hard for D.C. to compete. Here, the panelists were sympathetic: Optimal Solutions & Technologies CEO Ajay Madan suggested that Gray lower the tax to zero, then potentially increase it later once the environment has changed and the tech sector is well-established.
Which of course brought Gray back to his original question: How can I get those mulish councilmembers to agree?