DC for Democracy is known throughout Washington political circles as a group of savvy progressive boots-on-the-ground activists. What most people don’t know, however, is that we have a cadre of budget geeks within our midst. We’re taking advantage of that expertise and diving headfirst into the murky waters of city budget politics. After some analysis, internal discussion and vetting, we’re proud to announce our campaign to ensure the Council pursues a balanced approach toward deficit reduction.

Remember how Mayor Gray heavily relied on the phrase “One City” when he was asking for our votes? We assumed that a united city meant actually doing something about income inequality and keeping the safety net intact. After all, DC does suffer staggering gaps between its rich and poor residents, and contrary to common perception the well-to-do actually pay less in overall taxes than most of the surrounding counties in MD and VA. Clearly, vital services for the disadvantaged should not be bearing the brunt of efforts to balance the city’s budget.

Mr. Gray did propose a slightly higher income tax rate on those earning over $200,000, which we applaud. Although we can and must go further, it’s a good start. However, we cannot say the same about the choices Mayor Gray made to place vital programs like homeless services, affordable housing, disability assistance, mental health services and child care on the chopping block. These cuts among others to the safety net make up some two-thirds of the amount of overall budget cuts.

How, in such an overwhelmingly Democratic city, does the “prudent” and “safe” option involve slashing programs for the poor yet again while corporate welfare goes completely untouched? It’s not like our social welfare programs have been living high on the hog in recent years either; Mayor Gray proclaimed last year that “we’ve cut so much out of this budget that we’re not only down to the bone, we’re into the bone marrow”. Our city’s disadvantaged families didn’t cause the current recession, but they have repeatedly been forced to pay the price while powerful corporations that continue to thrive get off the hook.

With the final budget vote still a full month away, the City Council has the option to pursue a different path. Instead of throwing homeless families out onto the street, we should pursue modest revenue raisers targeted to those who can most afford them. We should also end wasteful tax giveaways and subsidies in the name of “economic development” until proper oversight mechanisms are in place.

DC4D has released a concrete plan to do just that. Check it out here.

Then, TAKE ACTION! Just 12 phone calls or personalized e-mails on an issue makes a real difference. If you contact your councilmember and pass on the message to 11 of your friends, you can be that differencemaker. Let’s make it happen!

Jeremy Koulish
Chair, DC4D Tax/Budget Committee