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Mayor Vincent Gray unveiled his $9.4 billion proposed budget last week, which outlines millions of dollars in cuts to social services.
The city anticipates a $172 million shortfall next year, and Mayor Gray wants to fill the gap mostly through cuts — about $102 million worth of them — while raising the remaining $70 million. The D.C. Council will spend the next couple of months digesting, debating and changing the budget before finally voting on it.
Let’s take a look at a few highlights:
No new taxes
Last year’s budget battle included a debate over whether to create a new tax bracket for wealthier residents. The council eventually approved a new tax bracket for households making more than $350,000 a year. This time around, Mayor Gray isn’t suggesting further raising taxes on the wealthy to balance the budget. Instead, he’s looking to make money by extending the hours alcohol can be sold and expanding the traffic camera program.
The DC Healthcare Alliance provides insurance for the approximately 20,000 low-income D.C. residents not covered by Medicaid. Mayor Gray proposes cutting $23 million from the program, transforming it from offering comprehensive coverage to just primary, preventative care.
Elahe Izadi / DCentric
D.C. Fair Budget Coalition's Janelle Treibitz pushes for protecting social service funding during a Monday rally.
Sandra Williams, 58, takes classes at a D.C. nonprofit in pursuance of a GED certificate. She eventually wants to become a social worker, but she’s unemployed for now and said she has can’t get a job because of her poor credit.
Anthony Hunter, 27, recently became homeless. The single father said that he needs a little help to get back on his feet. He currently lives off of $623 a month, he said.
Karima Weathers, 39, a single mother raising three children, recently lost her eyesight. She’s been in and out of shelters and has spent winter nights in her car.
They all turned out to a rally on the Wilson Building’s steps Monday morning, calling for Mayor Vincent Gray to spare funding cuts to social service programs and initiatives that help low-income D.C. residents. The rally was organized by the advocacy group D.C. Fair Budget Coalition. Mayor Gray is expected to release his proposed budget March 23.
Advocates say the situation is dire; one in three D.C. children lives in poverty and the waiting list for affordable housing is more than 37,000 people long. Continue reading
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Children's Chorus of Washington is one D.C.-based arts organization facing a possible 6 percent ticket tax.
The latest piece in the D.C. budget debate: whether art patrons will have to pay a 6 percent tax on ticket sales.
The current proposal, if approved, would tax arts and performance tickets in the District (except those put on by federal institutions). The Washington City Paper reports that among those who testified against the tax Monday was Linda Levy Grossman, president and CEO of the Helen Hayes Awards, who had this to say:
Grossman said the “inaccurate assumption” that arts patrons have the spare cash to pay more for a ticket “further perpetuates the erroneous assumption that arts are for the wealthy.”
Since this tax is a flat one, it is regressive, meaning it applies to all people the same regardless of income levels. And such a tax affects lower income people more than the rich.
Representatives of other arts organization, such as Step Afrika! director Brian Williams, said they already charge patrons less than what the tickets are worth, and they make up the difference by securing sponsorships.