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Jack Evans Report

  -This week the Council concluded the first, and most important, steps of approving a fiscal year 2011 budget, which will begin Oct. 1. I voted against the final plan as I believe we are relying on what are essentially a few too many "one time fixes" to balance our budget. I believe in some respects we have pushed the hard decisions to next year rather than take the more difficult, yet more thoughtful, route of rethinking the District government to realign our service needs with our actual resources. Underneath our considerations this year, I believe, is a fundamental structural problem which we have left unaddressed. We have to live within our means. The District government does not have a printing press for money, and I think we ignore the very real downturn in our revenue — particularly in commercial property taxes -- at our peril. So that leaves us with really only one choice — getting serious about reinventing government, reevaluating the efficiency and scope of the services we provide, and realigning the size of our government to be more in line with our actual resources. What we have done instead is this — we are continuing to spend down our accumulated fund balances (savings account). As recently as Jan. 1, 2007, these fund balances stood at nearly $1.54 billion, and at the beginning of the current fiscal year last Oct. 1, they stood at $902 million. For a year or two it might make sense to spend some money from these accounts — tough times happen — and we've benefited immeasurably from federal stimulus funds as well. But now we're going on spending down these balances for a third and fourth year. Hard decisions delayed, indeed. Our revenue streams have not turned around and are unlikely to do so for some time. In fact, I believe it will take a few years for a full recovery. As part of his budget the Mayor proposed a number of revenue increases, chiefly fees for various services, and the Council adopted a number of those as well as imposed a new tax to pay for a brand new program. And there certainly were any number of Members and advocates calling for even more taxes in a number of areas. But the fundamental problem with that approach is this — unless you restrain the growth of the government it will continue to grow by another $2-300 million a year in baseline measures and annual spending pressures. I have seen this nearly every year I have served in the Council. So the question then becomes — whose taxes do you raise the year after that, and then the year after that? What happens is you create a vicious cycle, much like that we had in the 80's and 90's, where you utterly discourage people from moving in to DC and you inspire current residents and businesses to flee. Over the past few decades the District lost hundreds of thousands of residents and the surrounding jurisdictions have shown that our region is indeed a desirable one. It's only in the past decade we've begun to turn that around — by lowering certain taxes, by attracting new residents, by improving city services, and by making DC an attractive place to live and work again. I refuse to be a part of turning our backs on that kind of progress and reversing the gains we have made. I refuse to be a part of playing "gotcha" with our residents and businesses and hiking up the cost of everything once people are here. We ought not to treat our residents and businesses as wallets simply to be picked at random. I advocate for the more challenging task of re-engineering our government to make efficiencies happen and deliver the same or greater services with the resources we already have.

‘Yes’ to Statehood on Nov. 8

We took another step forward in our fight for statehood last week, with the D.C. Council approving a constitution to go before the voters...

‘Yes” To Statehood on Nov. 8

We took another step forward in our fight for statehood last week, with the D.C. Council approving a constitution to go before the voters...

Metro Must Be Cheap, Convenient, Reliable

I’ve written quite a bit about our Metro system over the past year. On everything from finances to safety ...

Three Top Colleagues Move On

August is usually a sleepy time in D.C. In addition to school being out and everyone taking one last chance to hit the beach,...

Three Top Colleagues Move On

August is usually a sleepy time in D.C. In addition to school being out and everyone taking one last ...

Restoring Metro: By the Numbers

Just over a year ago, I become chair of the Finance Committee of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board. Fast-forward a year, and...

Restoring Metro: By the Numbers

Just over a year ago, I become chair of the Finance Committee of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board ...

Council Primaries and Priorities

The NBA Finals may have just wrapped up in Oakland, but here in Washington we had a bout of our ...

Jack Evans Report: Secured: $20 Million for the Arts and Humanities

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.