The Washington Post is reporting that D.C. schools will be losing $30 million in funding in FY2010 and smokers will be paying another 50 cents a pack for cigarettes. Among other tax increases and several other service cuts, these changes will become a reality assuming Mayor Fenty signs the latest revised budget that was just recently approved by the city council. He is expected to sign it, despite his original 2006 campaign promises of not raising taxes. But who campaigns saying they’re going to raise taxes anyway? And who can predict a nasty recession that kills city revenues and causes a $666 million budget gap? (Wait…$666 million? Surely Lucifer had something to do with this…)
The general sales tax is increasing by .25% on the dollar to an even 6% and gas prices will be going up a bit as this revised budget also increases the gas tax by 3.5 cents a gallon. About $350 million worth of service cuts had to be made for this budget, which includes significant funding cuts for social services like Bread for the City.
Local business leaders are upset with how quickly these tax increases were pushed through the council and the lack of public comment allowed. I love public engagement on policy, but who is going to stand up there and argue in favor of less money for their kids or paying more for their gas? The public never wants a cut in service and they never want an increase in what they pay, it’s just human nature. Managing budget shortfalls is pretty much the hardest job for any elected official and I don’t envy them one bit. With that said though, if you feel their priorities were in the wrong place, by all means let them know.
Council Chair Vincent Gray (D) gets most of the credit for these compromises and for finding a way to cover the gap without digging into the reserve fund, which the Mayor had suggested. Gray felt it would be fiscally irresponsible to do so.