Housing Complex

Budget Chunks: De-Taxing Edition

Jack Evans has HAD IT with raising your taxes.

Committee on Finance and Revenue chairman Jack Evans rejected a host of the Mayor's proposals on Thursday, calling it "inconceivable" that the District could raise taxes while proposing a $10.82 billion budget–the largest in its history. Offering deep cuts to social services as the only alternative, he said in yesterday's committee meeting, was a false choice.

"I don't know whose in charge, but whoever's in charge is doing an abysmal job, that we are spending that amount of money and being presented with these social issues," Evans said, calling the hike-taxes-or-put-homeless-people-on-the-streets narrative a "Washington Monument" strategy:  "Put the worst things out there, scare everybody, and maybe they'll do what we want. I find that to be a very very unprofessional approach."

Accordingly, his committee's report–which passed over Councilmembers Marion Barry and Michael Brown's objections–does the following:

  • Rejects the Exemptions and Abatements Information Requirement Act of 2011, which would require an economic analysis of all proposed tax breaks and an annual report detailing the progress of the developments that received them. Groups like the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute have argued that this is the only way to make sure tax incentives are well-spent, but Evans' committee says the bill's benefits aren't worth the $1.15 million it would cost to implement over four years, which bill sponsor Michael Brown thought was ridiculous. Evans plans to introduce a Tax Commission that would look at incentives as well as "revenue enhancements."
  • Repeals combined reporting, if sufficient money can be identified in next quarter's revised revenue estimate to cover the $22.6 million in new taxes the budget anticipates to collect by requiring multi-state corporations to pay income tax on the revenue they make in the District, rather than shifting it around. Which is odd, considering that Evans was for the measure in March.
  • Rolls back parking meter increases, an increase in the parking garage tax from 12 percent to 18 percent, limitations on itemized deductions, a new income tax bracket for those making more than $200,000, a six-percent tax on live theater ticket sales, and employer standard deduction withholding (read the report if you want to know what that is). Getting rid of all these taxes would cost $119.48 million*–out of the $127 million total package of proposed hikes–and is subject to revised revenue estimates that show an increase of at least that much.
  • That said, the committee was fine with imposing a 36-cent-per-pack wholesale surcharge on cigarettes, a franchise tax, and a few other things that aren't worth explaining.
  • The committee also wants to restore the Ballpark Community Benefits Fund and the Neighborhood Investment Fund, and keep the Circulator fares at $1 per ride.

All this will get hashed out in a televised Council roundtable session on Monday morning–tune in!

* Updated to reflect repeal of parking garage tax.

  • Kesh Ladduwahetty

    I'm not clear why Evans keeps citing the absolute size of DC's budget, when what matters is its RELATIVE share of our economy. When our local tax revenues are computed as a share of our GDP, you see that its share has declined from 6.3% in 2000 to 5.5% as proposed for FY12.

  • Litrally

    Thank God for Evans. The only sane one left up there. EVANS FOR MAYOR!

  • Mike Wilson

    I'm not exactly sure what is sane about rejecting every new revenue source and claiming that massive cuts to social services, including closing every single adult shelter when there is no a hypothermia emergency is not putting people on the streets.

    Evans tries to present himself as the financial expert on the council, things like this just prove he is a conservative trying to push his ideas in a liberal town.

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  • Hillman

    Actually the most sensible revenue source would be using the homeless and public housing resources we already have.

    The Mitch Snyder homeless shelter is a grossly underutilized facility. It's, what, three real stories, on some of the most expensive real estate on the planet.

    Why not redevelop that huge complex. Either keep the site, raze the building, and redevelop up to the legal height limit. Rent it to high dollar lobbyists (it's two blocks from the Capitol). Use that income to build five times as much homeless housing and services in a less expensive location..

    You could build literally five times the actual bed space, in a modern facility, with real services like drug counselling, etc.

    Why don't we? The 'homeless advocates' value the politically charged location two blocks from the Capitol more than they value actually providing services.

    As long as that's the case, I for one am quite hesitant to throw yet more tax money at homeless services, when we use the resources we have so stunningly poorly.

    Ditto for our public housing complexes. These sites are stunningly poorly utilized. Yet housing advocates won't even discuss better use of these existing resources.

    As long as that's the case, we haven't even come close to exhausting all possible resources.

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  • Legends

    60% budget growth in 8 years, people! The biggest budget in the history of DC, when every other city and state is cutting theirs! See a problem here?

    DC cannot just keep coming back and asking for more, more, more. Raising taxes is just too easy. Agencies should be made to make cuts - plenty of fat out there.

    Jack Evans is right on this one.