Housing Complex

Wearing Solutions on Your Sleeve, Plus: David Catania’s Greatest Hits

Vince Gray might stop you from holding a sign, but he can't make you take off your shirt. (Lydia DePillis)

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:

  • Typical DC BS

    Good old DC City Council: Let's siphon even more money out of taxpayers when we already misspend what we have. David Catania is no Republican.

    I'm 100% positive that the growth in DC spending FAR exceeded the rate of inflation the past 3 years. Once the budget is cut to the bone, maybe the councilmembers can once again justify why they are among the highest paid part-time workers in the United States.

    These councilmembers are a joke.

  • Here’s an idea!

    Why not have each Councilmember take a 10-thousand dollar cut....or at least a 5-thousand dollar cut... After all, they are asking everyone else to tighten their belt.....
    and their jobs are officially listed as part-time jobs.

    Council should take the first cuts. It's something called leadership.

  • http://greatergreaterwashington.org/ David Alpert

    Isn't this mixing capital with operating? DC has one operating budget and one capital budget, and this is recommending basically paying for an ongoing operating service with capital money.

  • Jeff

    David you are likely correct. Both the dog parks and streetcar money are likely to be capital. And the capital budget is going to get a good scrubbing according to Gray so he said last week. So no, you cannot and should not take capital money and use it to pay operating expenses - bad plan! DC did that in the 90's (among other things) and then went bankrupt!

  • Mike Wilson

    Typical DC BS is incorrect.

    1) David Catania was a Republican and only left the GOP over the gay marriage issue. As discussed here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A58101-2004Sep28.html
    He would not qualify as a Repub in the Tea Party sense, but he is still conservative on fiscal issues, he proposed a flat tax style increase today.

    2) Despite your feelings of confidence about DC budget growth in the past few years, here is the actual fact from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute: "The Fiscal Year 2011 budget approved last spring was already $600 million lower than the budget in Fiscal Year 2008, adjusting for inflation." You can feel free to read the entire report this came from at http://www.dcfpi.org/proposed-gap-closing-plan-relies-heavily-on-cuts-all-areas-of-the-budget-would-be-affected-but-low-income-residents-bear-the-brunt

    So yeah, there have already been massive budget cuts. Its time to raise revenue.

  • Adam L

    @David & Jeff

    Both very true. Most people don't understand that the vast majority of money available in the capital fund comes from investors who have bought the city's municipal bonds. Using capital funds to pay for operating expenses is a fantastic way for a city to kill its bond rating and completely dry up the pool of available funds.

    Having said that, investors also know that good infrastructure projects like investing in schools, parks, transportation provide much more than a simple return on the investment. If those dog parks encourage more high-income residents to live in the District and pay taxes here, guess what? That pays for teachers, police, and social workers. If a streetcar raises property values and spurs business, guess what? Again, that pays for all the services and programs people want. The city should not shoot itself in the foot by eliminating worthy capital projects as some kind of political stunt.

  • Mike Wilson

    Typical DC BS is incorrect.

    1) David Catania was a Republican and only left the GOP over the gay marriage issue. He would not qualify as a Repub in the Tea Party sense, but he is still conservative on fiscal issues, he proposed a flat tax style increase today.

    2) Despite your feelings of confidence about DC budget growth in the past few years, here is the actual fact from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute: "The Fiscal Year 2011 budget approved last spring was already $600 million lower than the budget in Fiscal Year 2008, adjusting for inflation." You can feel free to read the entire report this came from at their website. Posting it here seems to make my post have to wait for moderation, and that isn't fun.

    So yeah, there have already been massive budget cuts. Its time to raise revenue.

  • LOL

    Why is everyone so emotional. We should look at revenue and cuts. The city's financial situation is grim but there is a solution. We have to be realistic and understand that there will be some projects and programs that will have to stop. It isn't fun. But these are the tough decisions that have to be made.

  • John M.

    Councilmember Catania is exactly right. The city needs to look at cuts instead of tax increases.

    I remember when there wasn't enough money to buy fuel for police cars and fire trucks, but yet there was always enough to keep the welfare checks flowing. We know where that ended up.

  • Sally

    Typical tax and sped bull from Fiscal Policy Institute. Those bleedings hearts' solution to ANYTHING is to raise taxes on the "wealthy". Wealthy, of course, being defined as anyone that makes any money.

  • John M.

    Tommy Wells has to go.

    His solution to any budget problem is to raise taxes on the "wealthy." He tried to do it last spring and here he is doing it again.

    Ward 6 needs a fiscally responsible candidate to step forward. I know I would vote for him.

  • D.C. voter

    Hmm. Still a Republican? Where does that come from? Lazy journalism, that's where.

    Catania supports an across the board tax increase, expansions in publicly funded health insurance programs, a publicly supported safety-net hospital, same-sex marriage, job training, and cheaper prescription drugs.

    Find me a prominent Republican in this country who supports any of those things.

    Great reporting!

  • DCitizen

    Voter- read again, Lydia was accurate in her description of Catania as being a former Republican.

    These budget hearings are simply jokes. Each council member makes up his or her mind way before any public witness comments about the budgt. This is all for show.

  • SUBMIT PUNY HUMAN! YOUR DOOM IS AT HAND!

    @DCitizen, I mean,that's council hearings in general.

    The one time in my entire life I've seen a CM pull back on something they pushed was when Graham did a 180 on the attempt to ban all ages venues in 2007/2008. Otherwise, you show up there, and it's fucking dog and pony show. Unless you're rolling like a thousand people deep, they don't even notice.

  • Rick Mangus

    PEOPLE IT'S ALL ABOUT PRIORITIZING, CUT THE CRAP LIKE BIKE LANES AND DC ART PROJECTS AND STREETCARS!

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