Washington City Paper‘s headline after Mayor Gray released his proposed Fiscal Year 2014 budget proclaimed “Money for Everyone!” Not altogether so.
There will be money for most, but not quite everyone. There will be more money for some — both businesses and individuals, including some of the District’s lowest-income residents.
But their needs still get shorted, even now that the District is looking forward to $79.7 million more in revenues than the windfall expected for this fiscal year.
So here’s a selective look at who will get more, focused mainly, as you might expect, on spending that will — or at least, could — help low-income residents. Next post will deal with help they won’t get, but could have.
There will certainly be more money for construction companies. The proposed budget bulges with projects for them — public school buildings (new and modernized), infrastructure, recreational facilities, libraries.
If the companies comply with the District’s First Source law, there could be more jobs — hence money — for unemployed and underemployed D.C. residents too.
This should ultimately mean more money for food, clothing and other necessities for some of the nearly two-thirds of extremely low-income District households who are now paying more than half their income for rent because 40% of Trust Fund dollars are supposed to help finance housing for them.
An additional $5 million will go for housing vouchers that help pay for the operating costs of units designated for the District’s lowest-income residents — an essential complement to the Trust Fund money.
Another $3.1 million will provide more housing for victims of domestic violence.
And there will be a total of $2 million more for one-time and limited-term assistance to families for whom the rent has been so unaffordable that they’ve been evicted — or are about to be.
But — getting ahead of myself here, I know — not a penny more for regular vouchers that homeless and other very low-income residents could use to help pay market-rate rents.
There will be more money for all District employees, who’ll get their first pay increases in at least four years — not only fair, but perhaps job-creating if the employees spend some of their extra cash locally.
There will be more money for some nonprofits because the Mayor’s budget would create a $15 million competitive grant fund for them.
And there will be more money for lots of District residents who’ve got municipal bonds in their investment portfolios.
Current law would impose a tax on the interest these bonds earn, unless issued by the District.
But the Mayor wants to repeal it, giving us bondholders a total of nearly $13 million over the next five years — and the unique privilege of investing tax-free in bonds of no benefit to our community.
The tax giveaway and the values it reflects are among the reasons that there’s no more money for some of the urgent needs of the District’s low-income residents, though there will be more money for other “quality of life” investments like bike lanes.
Nothing against bike lanes, mind you. But I would have put a higher priority on improving the quality of life of homeless families, some of whom will probably again be spending their nights in Metro stations, hospital waiting rooms and the like.
And a higher priority on other programs and services that can advance not only the Mayor’s quality of life improvement goal, but his other goals too.