The Fair Budget Coalition is dismayed at the spending priorities reflected in Mayor Bowser’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018. Despite having explicitly expressed concern at the threats to DC values by the Trump Administration, Mayor Bowser has proposed a budget that fails to adequately protect the lives and basic human needs of DC residents most at risk—low-income people.
DC has one of the highest rates of income inequality in the nation. A minimum wage worker in DC must work 17 hours a day, 7 days a week in order to afford a two-bedroom apartment at market rate. In the midst of this affordable housing crisis, and with cuts to vital safety net programs looming at the federal level, Mayor Bowser’s budget proposal prioritizes the District’s high income residents and businesses over working class and poor DC residents who struggle to make ends meet even as DC flourishes economically.
This budget proposal fails to expand and strengthen tools to create more housing for extremely low income people, and guarantees that the District’s goals of ending homelessness will not be met on time. Despite the fact that 8,500 people experience homelessness on any given day in the District and 40,000 households are on a waitlist for affordable housing, the Mayor’s proposed budget provides permanent housing subsidies for fewer than 500 households in FY18. There are no new investments to repair DC’s dilapidated public housing stock, and for the second consecutive year, Mayor Bowser has put forth a budget that does not create additional vouchers to move households off the DC Housing Authority waitlist.
The Mayor’s proposed budget does not include start-up funding for DC’s paid family leave insurance program, transportation subsidies for adult learners, or implementation funding to fight housing discrimination for DC’s returning citizens. Although the Mayor added $8 million to reform DC’s rigid TANF time limit policy, the funding is not sufficient to fully support children experiencing poverty. Instead, the Mayor has prioritized $18.8 million in tax cuts for estates worth between $1-5 million, $23.8 million in tax breaks for businesses, and invests almost $400 million to support development projects like DC Streetcar, a new Wizards practice facility, and luxury condominiums at McMillan Park over the critical human needs of District residents.
At first glance, this budget proposal does not reflect the DC values the Mayor has promised to champion. FBC will investigate and monitor new programs included in the proposal. When the Mayor presents the budget to the DC Council on Thursday, we believe that they will face a heavy task in making this proposed budget reflect DC values. This is a difficult but vital task - as Martin Luther King Jr. said in the context of the Poor People’s Campaign, “a budget is a moral document.”
Quotes from members:
“The administration’s proposed budget would do nothing to stem the tide of President Trump’s proposed housing cut. Though the administration talks about ‘inclusive prosperity’ for all, its proposed budget would undermine the well-being and access to opportunity of the tens and thousands of Washingtonians living on low incomes who are served by Bread for the City. The budget offers not prosperity, but austerity,” says George Jones, Executive Director of Bread for the City.
“As a native Washingtonian, it is hurtful to see one of our own being an instrument of our destruction and building her pathway to reelection of the backs of the few remaining natives who live here and the least privileged people who want to stay,” says Aiyi’nah Ford, Executive Director of the Future Foundation.
“We are disappointed that this budget does not include the resources needed to end homelessness, as outlined in Homeward DC. We are counting on the Council to fund the gap and to house our most vulnerable neighbors,” says Jesse Rabinowitz, Advocacy Specialist at Miriam’s Kitchen