DC Coalition Reacts to Mayor’s Proposed Budget

March 26, 2009

The Coalition for Community Investment has come out in cautious support of D.C. Mayor Fenty’s proposed Fiscal Year 2010 budget.

CCI praises the Mayor for following its general principles for budget decision-making, saying that his budget:

  • Shows a commitment to protecting critical investments needed “at this time to ensure the stability and safety of city residents and neighborhoods.”
  • “Makes a strong effort to avoid cuts in service wherever possible.”
  • Reflects an effort to raise revenues, rather than trying to balance the budget by funding cuts alone.

At the same time, CCI notes that the proposed reduction in District-funded staff positions is “quite large” and says that a more detailed analysis will be needed to determine the potential impact on services.

In other words, we simply don’t know at this point whether the District can, as the Mayor has testified, continue moving forward on the delivery of critical services when about 1,300 positions are due to be cut.

CCI also expresses concerns about the Mayor’s proposal to eliminate the cost-of-living increases in three personal income tax provisions, saying that these “would disproportionately affect low- and middle-income residents.” It would like to see alternative revenue raisers that have less impact on those who are least able to afford them.

What these might be it doesn’t say. But, as I wrote awhile ago, it offered the Mayor and City Council numerous specific suggestions.

CCI says it looks forward to learning how the proposed budget “will help stimulate job growth, strengthen local businesses and support neighborhoods and families during the economic downturn.”

So do I. And, frankly, I’m not at all certain that the proposed budget represents the best that can be done to meet the urgent needs of the District’s growing low-income population. I suspect many CCI members aren’t either.

Let’s hope that the City Council asks lots of good questions at the upcoming budget hearings.


DC Budget Challenges

March 23, 2009

Mayor Fenty released his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2010 last Friday. It’s entitled “Meeting the Challenge.” And, indeed, you’ll meet a challenge if you try to read it–unless, of course, you’re an expert in the D.C. budget and have insider information about what lies behind the figures.

Fortunately, the District has local nonprofits that will tell us what the budget means for key programs that affect homeless and other poor residents. So I’ll be writing more about this in the days ahead.

But shouldn’t the budget be reasonably clear to concerned citizens? Shouldn’t we be able to find out how much the Mayor proposes for specific programs and services we care about? Shouldn’t we be told what proposed funding levels will support?

Last year, staff at DC Fiscal Policy Institute wrote a column on the need for a more transparent budget. I find this year’s budget as opaque as the last.

The Fenty administration needs to understand that transparency involves something more than putting government documents on a website. The documents have to be clear enough to enable us to understand what our government plans to do so that we can participate in the decision-making process.

The administration knows how to do a better job. Its new site for uses of federal stimulus funds gives us relevant information in language we can understand and even opportunities for input.

So how about a budget summary and supplements that do the same for the entire D.C. budget?