Today is gap-closing day at the Wilson Building, where Councilmembers are grappling with the question of how to find $188 million—the difference between revenues and expenses in the FY 2011 budget. The Fenty administration came up with a few suggestions for how that should happen, but since the Council can basically throw them out the window, the debate is just getting started.
To inform their deliberations, 144 people signed up to make the case for their respective line items. The smarter ones didn’t just say why funding for environmental programs, small business assistance, job training, etc. must be kept, but also where else to cut to make up the difference. The Consortium for Child Welfare put some math on a t-shirt: $5 million in dog parks plus $10 million in money for streetcars equals $15 million: The shortfall for the Child and Family Services Agency.
The point is well-taken: We shouldn’t be spending on things we could get by without when the most vulnerable need help. But it’s unfortunate that the most high-profile projects—which, long term, will create more value and drive investment—must be pitted against social services.
Almost Mayor Vince Gray has promised to scour the budget for efficiencies that will save the most money and cause the least pain. The alternative to cuts, of course, is coming up with “revenue enhancements”—i.e. taxes—which Fenty’s proposal largely avoids. Councilmembers Michael Brown and Jim Graham have been particularly outspoken about the need to raise taxes on the wealthy. Several advocates at today’s hearing were wearing a “1%” sticker on their lapels, signifying support for hiking income taxes on those who earn more than $200,000 per year from 8.5 percent to 9.5 percent. According to the Chief Financial Officer’s Office of Revenue Analysis, that would raise $180.4 million over FY 2011, 2012, and 2013.
Councilmember David Catania was not having it. In fine form today, the former Republican launched into a series of diatribes against the new tax bracket idea, favoring instead a plan to raise taxes by a smaller amount across the board. Herewith, a few highlights: