For the past several years, I have pushed my colleagues to increase arts funding to the $20 million level, allowing the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) to fully achieve its goals and help keep the District a vibrant and, more critically, affordable bastion for the arts.
I’m particularly pleased that I was able to finally secure $20 million to help support arts education for our children, artists across the city and the diverse community that makes Washington the most dynamic city in the country.
This year, the initial budget amount was only $15 million. This significantly increased level of funding will go toward underwriting art projects, paying local artists for their work and expanding arts programs in our schools and neighborhoods.
Budgets are about priorities. As many of you know, the arts have long been a high priority of mine to make our city more livable, our education system more robust and our community more diverse. All three of my triplets benefitted from exposure to the arts at a young age. As my daughter Christine finishes her first year at the Parsons School of Design and my son John finishes his freshman year studying art at the University of Pennsylvania, I’m proud that, as a city, we’re able to fund arts programming that will allow even more children to receive similar exposure.
(In case anyone is wondering, my daughter Katherine just finished her first year at Elon University. She isn’t studying art, but I couldn’t be more proud of her!)
While increasing funding for the arts has long been a priority for me, it’s worth noting this is less than two-tenths of one percent of our budget for the upcoming year. There are many other priorities in our budget that I’m pleased will be funded.
As I previously wrote in these pages, the District’s budget once again allocated $100 million to the critical Housing Production Trust Fund; committed our full operating subsidy to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority as we continue to reform and restore our transit system; and will continue to invest more than a quarter of our funding in education.
In addition, I was able to continue the tax breaks that the Council passed in 2014. To balance our needs as a city with the return of our increasing revenues to taxpayers, the tax cuts will be implemented as we hit new revenue levels. Recently, we enacted a cut to our unincorporated business franchise tax and an increase in the estate tax threshold. These cuts follow earlier reductions in low- and middle-income personal tax rates and an expansion in the Earned Income Tax Credit, among others.
We continue to fund our priorities, improve our city and strengthen our finances. The work never ends, but we’ve made great strides over the past 25 years.
Jack Evans is the District Council member for Ward 2, representing Georgetown and other neighborhoods since 1991.