First Budget Vote is Unanimous, Second Vote to Follow in Two Weeks

 

At the most recent Legislative Meeting, the Council voted unanimously in its first of two required votes in favor of the Local Budget Act, and all but one vote of “present” in favor of the Budget Support Act. The FY 2020 budget comprises $15.5 billion, of which $8.6 billion is local money.

Budget Process, Briefly Explained

While “the District’s budget” sounds like a single, solitary item—it is not. In fact, with the implementation of DC Budget Autonomy (our right to approve the portion of our own budget that we fund locally), it has grown even more complicated.

What is most commonly referred to as “the budget” is known at the Council as the Local Budget Act. It sets spending for the operating and capital budgets—appropriating local revenues as well as federal Medicaid and grants.

Within 70 days of the Mayor introducing her budget, the Council must pass the Local Budget Act twice, two weeks apart. This year, since the Mayor’s budget was introduced on March 20, the 70-day window will close on May 29, hence the required votes occurred at the most recent Legislative Meeting, as well as on May 28. At the May 28 meeting, the sole votes on the non-entitlement federal portion of our budget, as well as the bill encompassing any remaining funds from the current fiscal year that must be spent prior to September 30, will be taken.

The counterpart legislation to the Local Budget Act is the Budget Support Act, which encapsulates all the legislative changes required to implement the mechanics of the Local Budget Act. The Budget Support Act had the first of two required votes at the most recent Legislative Meeting, with the second vote to follow, likely in June.

Summary of Budget Changes

Among the changes made to the budget as proposed, the Council:

  • Provides $13.6 million in education enhancements to fund a 3% Universal Per Student Funding Formula increase and a 0.225 at-risk student weight
  • Provides $8.5 million to partially fund the “Birth-to-Three for All DC Act”
  • Provides an additional $3.9 million for the Office of the Attorney General (OAG)’s Cure the Streets violence interruption program and enables an additional $3 million per fiscal year in the OAG’s non-lapsing Litigation Support Fund for crime prevention purposes
  • Dedicates $20.5 million to housing and housing supports, including $7.9 million to create approximately 389 new units of housing for extremely low-income families and individuals through the DC Housing Authority’s Local Rent Supplement Program
  • Shifts the closing of the United Medical Center to January 2023, and includes labor protections to ensure the workforce is not affected by the United Medical Center’s closure
  • Funds the creation of an Expenditure Commission, modeled on the well-regarded Tax Revision Commission, to review and analyze the District’s current budget structure for the current and previous five fiscal years, and make recommendations for improving the District’s budget

At the most recent Legislative Meeting, there was much discussion regarding two of the most promising capital projects in the future of DC Public Schools: modern, state-of-the-art facilities for Banneker High School and Shaw Middle School. While no changes were made to the legislation voted on prior to the first budget vote, a commitment was made to attempt to satisfy advocates for both schools in the legislation to be taken up on May 28.

One amendment approved at the most recent meeting gradually scales back a technology tax incentive, instead shifting funds to homeless outreach, school mental health services, lead service line replacement, permanent supportive housing, and other programs. Another amendment re-established an academic affiliation between Howard University and the new hospital coming to the Saint Elizabeth campus.

The Council’s next Legislative Meeting will be held on May 28.