Budget Chunks: De-Taxing Edition
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.