Loose Lips Daily: Money Matters Edition
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Good morning sweet readers! It's budget day, so the D.C. Council will soon vote to give preliminary approval to the fiscal 2012 budget. Excited? No? Click here to get in the mood. News time:
Money Matters: According to an old prof of LL's, the only two things Joe Public wants out of a budget story are answers to these questions: Is my trash still going to be collected, and are my taxes going up? Mr. Public can rest easy in knowing that the budget about to be passed will not affect his trash pickup, and his income taxes likely won't be going up, even if he makes more than $200,000 a year. Council Chairman Kwame "Fully Loaded" Brown shunned calls for him to release his version of the budget 24 hours before the council voted on it, releasing the sucker at about 9:30 p.m. last night (still better than the last guy, right?). But Brown lived up to his campaign promises and took out Mayor Vince Gray's proposed income tax hike for the wealthy, going instead with a new tax on out-of-state municipal bonds. That tax will be short-lived, too; it will go away when CFO Nat Gandhi announces in June that the District is millions of dollars richer than it previously thought (after the District socks away $80-plus million of that new money for savings, new cops, and other programs). Gandhi wrote a letter to the council yesterday saying that counting one's chickens before they are hatched is a horrible idea.
Here's how Kwame's office spins the "key differences" between his budget and the mayor's. "Funding for critical social safety net services, such as shelters for families and homeless services, has been restored and the WMATA subsidy is fully funded." More budget details: Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells's plan for a walkable, liveable utopia gets plenty of funding. Combined reporting is in, as are increased taxes on parking garages. Follow these tweets for more deets.
AFTER THE JUMP: Where's the Money, Gandhi? Wal-Mart Ultimatum; Redistricting Woes...
Missing Money: Did Gandhi whiff on collecting more than $100 million worth of taxes from commercial property owners? That's what a couple of lawyers are saying. "The group is led by Jeffrey Mitchell and Douglas Patton, the deputy mayor for economic development under Mayor Anthony Williams. The attorneys want the District to hire them to conduct a $2.5 million audit to pinpoint tax-dodging commercial property owners and get them to pay," reports the Examiner. "At issue is the interpretation of a regulation change dating back to 2001 that allowed the city to tax refinanced commercial mortgages. The D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue has been taxing commercial property owners on the refinanced portion of the mortgage. Mitchell, a real estate attorney, says the office should have been taxing the entire amount of the original loan." The Post has a few examples, along with phrase "Evasion Method." "Mitchell alleges that property owners took measures to hide taxable transactions — in particular, by refinancing properties without filing the documents that would trigger the tax. Instead, the property owners have filed “amended” loan documents, which indicate a change in the documents but not the refinancing." Skepticism abounds of the lawyers' claims, especially since they originally blew the whistle on this by offering to investigate the claims for a fee. And the attorney general and CFO are still investigating. But if it is true... explosive stuff.
What Happened In Vegas? Wal-Mart Got Served: Postie Jonathan O'Connell had to go to all the way to Vegas to get this scoop: "D.C. Mayor Vincent D. Gray delivered an ultimatum in a face-to-face meeting with Wal-Mart officials at a real estate convention Monday: If the chain wants to enter the District at all, it had better commit to opening at Skyland Shopping Center, the long-delayed redevelopment project in Gray’s home ward that he considers the most important development project in the city." Says Gray: "They’re interested in developing four stores ... All of us said, ‘What about a fifth store?’ They hemmed and hawed, and it ultimately came down to — you have a choice. You can do five stores or you can do no stores.” American capitalism at its finest!
What's this? Redistricting Heartburn?: A group of Ward 6 residents do not like the current redistricting plan of slicing off the Hill East and putting it in Ward 7. Tommy Wells doesn't like the plan either. "Chief among Wells' concerns, and those of his constituents, is disrupting the near decade-long planning that's gone into the schools in that section of the ward. The now-renovated Eastern High School is the crown jewel of a the plan that started with bringing elementary schools up to snuff and then the middle schools that feed into the high school, Wells said." Also upset: dog walkers at Congressional Cemetery.
Gray sked: Scrapbooking Vegas trip (joke).
Council sked: Budget passin'.