Dear Chairman Mendelson and Councilmembers Allen, Bonds, Cheh, Evans, Gray, Grosso, McDuffie, Nadeau, Silverman, Todd, R. White, and T. White,

We are writing on behalf of the 600+ members of DC for Democracy to urge you to vote this Tuesday for an FY18 budget that serves all the people of DC.

As you know, the city’s current prosperity has not reached all of its residents. DC still faces extreme wealth inequality, gentrification/displacement, and concentrated poverty. This is not acceptable, and we expect the Council’s budget to recognize and address these problems.

The Council must not vote to award $40 million in FY18 alone in estate and business tax cuts that would go to wealthy residents. Those funds are urgently needed for more important priorities, including: 1) repair and expansion of public housing, 2) rental assistance, 3) permanent supportive housing for singles and families, 4) additional staff for the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to hold slumlords accountable, and 5) full funding for the NEAR Act, including $6 million for the Office of Neighborhood Engagement & Safety. Passing estate and business tax cuts instead would prove that the Council is far out of touch with the needs of the general public.

It is simply unacceptable for the Council to award high-income tax cuts in a city with the highest income inequality and an affordable housing crisis that has been exacerbated by government coziness with luxury developers and the failure to build real affordable housing. We commend the Council for making significant progress towards a more progressive tax structure, but we have still not done enough. Estate and business tax cuts are an unwise step, given that high-income households still pay a smaller share of income in local taxes than middle-income families. We are intrigued by a DCFPI proposal to limit the business tax cut to small businesses, a measure supported by Councilmember Grosso. While one can debate whether $5 million is the appropriate cut-off, we would be open to a compromise measure that seeks to target the business tax cuts to locally-owned small businesses, which offer out-sized benefits to the local economy.

The Council must also fund the start-up costs for the new Paid Family Leave program. DC has sufficient reserve funds to cover the additional $20 million needed to implement this program, especially if it passes the Reserve Funds Improvement Act. It is vital that the Council maintain its commitment to the Paid Family Leave legislation passed last year after two years of debate. It is unacceptable to go back to square one at this point.

A budget is a statement of values, and DC deserves a budget that reflects the values of this city: equality, justice, and compassion for our fellow citizens in need. We will pay close attention to the budget vote this Tuesday, and urge you to vote for an FY18 budget that serves all the people of DC.

Sincerely,

Kesh Ladduwahetty, Chair
Andra Wicks, Treasurer
Dan Wedderburn, Assistant Treasurer
Jeremiah Lowery, Ombudsman
Noah Van Gilder, Secretary
Keith Ivey, Political Director
Zach Schalk, Communications Chair
Jonathan Silverman, Membership Chair
Jeremy Koulish, IT Chair
Roy Harrison, Fundraising Chair
Andrea Rosen, At-Large member
[This statement by DC for Democracy’s Steering Committee is based on the resolution passed by our members on May 9th.]