Budget Season Kicks Off as Calendar Year-End Approaches

Urban myth famously–though seemingly inaccurately–states that workers start painting the Golden Gate Bridge at one end, and by the time they have reached the far end and have seemingly completed the work, they must instead go back to the beginning and start all over again.

While not quite that bad, the District government’s budget process does operate somewhat similarly.

The Administration’s work on the FY 2019 budget began not long after the FY 2018 budget was passed by the Council. And now, as of the Council’s most recent Legislative Meeting, the Council’s budget season has technically begun as well.

With its passage of the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Submission Requirements Resolution of 2017, the Council has provided the Administration with tidy and detailed guidelines on exactly how we would like the budget to be presented to us.

This document establishes the “what” and the “how” of next year’s budget. In the coming days, the Council and Administration will agree on the “when,” namely the date selected for the introduction of the proposed FY 2019 budget to the Council. The Council is required by law to approve a budget within 70 days of its introduction, so the selection of the introduction date lays the roadmap for the remaining key dates in the budget process.

Outside of this early, non-controversial budget measure, the most recent Legislative Meeting mainly saw the legislative treadmill continue to process the large quantity of measures introduced throughout 2017.

Homeless Services, Women’s Health Care, and Historic Anacostia Homes

Among the more prominent measures addressed, a homeless services reform bill received the second of two needed votes at the most recent meeting. The bill, which began as an Administration proposal, was improved, and toned down, first in committee, then further prior to the first vote last month, and finally one last time before the most recent and final vote. This measure passed by a large majority vote, as did a Tax Increment Financing measure for Union Market.

Passed unanimously at the most recent meeting was the Defending Access to Women’s Health Care Services Amendment Act, which would ensure that the women’s health protections enshrined in Obamacare will remain part of DC law no matter what happens at the federal level. Also approved unanimously was a measure echoing earlier Council legislation that provides for four historic Anacostia properties to be restored and used for workforce housing. Another measure passed unanimously which legalizes a kind of test strip used to determine if drugs such as heroin have been doctored with even more dangerous synthetic opioids.

Potential Impact of Congress’ “Tax Reform” Bill

A noteworthy addition to the most recent meeting’s agenda were a raft of revenue bond emergency bill measures. While “emergency legislation” is a term of art in Home Rule DC that refers to a more rapid applicability timetable and a higher approval hurdle (rather than indicating a true crisis), there is an unusual urgency to these revenue bond measures in particular.

In the House version of the “tax reform” legislation hurtling through Congress, there is language that would entirely eliminate this kind of Industrial Revenue Bond (IRB). Bills in the pipeline now, and approved before the end of December, will survive, but may be the last such measures for the foreseeable future if the House language makes it into the final conference bill.

Partially because of the specific urgency of these bond measures, there will likely be two more Legislative Meetings prior to the end of 2017: December 12 and December 19.

Introductions and Ceremonials

New measures introduced at the most recent meeting, if ultimately approved by the Council, would:
•Ensure improved community access to recreational facilities
•Protect seniors from predatory trade practices such as misleadingly urgent mailers
•Increase the integrity of the housing code enforcement process
•Create Green Building unit-by-unit metering for residential buildings
•Enhance the Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program by emphasizing “soft skills,” facilitating enrollment, and targeting jobs to those most in need
•Eliminate revocation of driver’s licenses as an unpaid parking ticket penalty for lower-income residents
•Create enhanced penalties for deliberate and recurrent parking violations specifically tied to commercial vehicles such as certain food trucks
•Increase transparency of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) measures

The Council also presented a Ceremonial Resolution to Myrna Sislen of Middle C Music to thank her for her extensive instrument repair work at Jefferson Academy in Southwest DC.

For a full listing of all votes taken at the most recent meeting, please click here.