Fair Budget Coalition Recommends Top Priorities for DC Government

The Fair Budget Coalition has issued its annual recommendations for the next D.C. budget. They deserve serious consideration by the Mayor and the City Council.

It’s going to be an unusually tough year for budget decisions. FBC has done a lot of work to make them easier. And, for the first time, it’s gone beyond the budget itself to identify needs for new policies and improvements in planning and administration. With these, the District should get more bang for the buck–and more bucks coming in as well.

FBC comprises more than 60 local grassroots community groups, human service providers, advocates, faith organizations and concerned individuals. All work, in one way or another, to improve the lives of low-income D.C. residents.

Every year, they come together to agree on priorities for the next fiscal year’s budget. To me, it’s an extraordinary achievement that they ultimately do agree, given their diversity and the number and variety of initiatives that would advance their objectives.

This year, the achievement is even greater because they have taken serious account of the constraints the District faces. They’re offering only ten recommendations–just over half as many as last year. Only five of these would cost the District anything. And their total cost is only $44.7 million–less than a third of what all last year’s recommendations would have cost.

It’s hard to put the total “ask” in perspective until we know the District’s revenue projection for FY 2010. However, we can get some sense of how modest it is from the fact that the FY 2009 budget is about $6.4 billion, not counting federal funds.

As FBC indicates, some of the recommended investments would be immediately offset by savings in other services. In the longer run, the returns would be even greater, as more D.C. residents would have the health, domestic stability, education and skills to become self-sufficient and contributors to local income tax revenues.

FBC calls on the District for leadership, accountability and inclusion. I’d say its report is a good example of all three.

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