Second Budget Vote is Unanimous; Anti-Violence Pilot Approved and Funded

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 must be passed twice, two weeks apart. This year, the Mayor’s budget was introduced on March 21, the 70-day window will close on May 30, hence the required May 15 and May 29 votes.

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 on May 15, with the second vote to follow in June.

The Federal Portion Budget Request Act includes the non-entitlement federal portion of our budget. Because it is a request for congressional appropriations, the bill is only voted on once by the Council, and this occurred at the most recent Legislative Meeting. Finally, while the three aforementioned measures are all forward-looking, and cover Fiscal Year 2019 (beginning on October 1), the final budget vote (known colloquially as the “Supplemental”) taken at the most recent meeting, addresses remaining Fiscal Year 2018 funds that must be expended prior to September 30.

Addressed with perhaps the greatest sense of urgency at the most recent Legislative Meeting was the spate of violence that has struck the District in recent days. Understanding that this most recent violence needed immediate attention, the Council redirected funds from the current year’s budget to combat gun violence on the community level. Following the Mayor’s signature on the emergency Supplemental, the Office of Attorney General Karl Racine will receive $360,000 to address gun violence prevention this summer in two as-yet unnamed neighborhoods.

The Budget, Broadly

The $14.5 billion budget unanimously passed by the Council at its two most recent Legislative Meeting differed from the draft originally offered by the Mayor in several significant ways.

First, the budget provides for a tax credit designed to benefit small businesses. The 4,400 District small businesses with less than $2.5 million in gross revenues will receive up to a $5,000 tax credit – intended to offset rising costs of real property taxes - that will lower/eliminate their minimum franchise tax bill, or trigger a tax rebate.

Second, the Council dedicated $13 million to assist those who face disproportionately high water bills due to “impervious surface” fees needed to fund infrastructure to redirect sewage overflows away from the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers.

Third, an additional $16,143,845 above and beyond what the Mayor proposed provides housing funding for low-income residents, those experiencing homelessness, and domestic violence survivors. Programs receiving increases will include the Local Rent Supplement Program, Permanent Supportive Housing, Transitional Housing, Targeted Affordable Housing, a “shallow subsidy” for seniors, and emergency rental assistance. This will translate into 939 new units of permanent and/or transitional housing vouchers and subsidies.

Fourth, for the first time, the Council created a dedicated funding source for the arts. The District’s general sales tax will include a 0.3 percent set aside to fund the Commission for the Arts and Humanities and its grantmaking authority, or roughly $30 million per year.

Fifth, the District directed dedicated funding to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). Decades in the making, the District, as well as Maryland and Virginia, will provide the predictable funding needed to maintain the system. The Council made some modifications to the Mayor’s proposal to pay for these needed investments.

Sixth, the Council funded a requirement that all capital projects of more than $75 million must include a Project Labor Agreement between project contractors and subcontractors.

Finally, the tax on cigarettes was increased from $2.50 to $4.50 a pack, and funded the increase in the tobacco age of purchase from 18 to 21 years.