After a tumultuous budget season, full of unanticipated twists, yesterday, the DC council finalized the budget proposal it will send to Congress for approval. We’re proud of the District for moving in the right direction, towards a more progressive tax structure, and towards meeting the needs of all residents. And we’re appreciative of all of you who took action to make it so!
JUFJ started this budget season with a focus on the revenue side of the equation, and that’s where we’ve stayed, even while supporting our allies’ fights for important spending priorities. We began by opposing cuts to the top income tax rate or an increase in the estate tax exemption level. Then, when it became clear that Chairman Mendelson had mustered the votes necessary for a compromise tax package that would substantially lower the tax burden for low-income DC residents and make our tax structure less regressive (even while it would include both of the changes we initially fought against), we decided to support this package.
Next came the opposition from gym club owners and members, who objected to the component of the package that made their services subject to the basic DC sales tax. We dug in, taking the position that if DC is going to have a sales tax, it should include services as well as goods, to be as broad and low as possible.
Yesterday, the Council said they agreed with us, voting 9-4 against a proposed amendment to continue to exclude gym memberships and fitness classes from the city sales tax. Chairman Mendelson and Councilmembers Cheh and Orange all spoke in favor of the sales tax expansion. The Council also responded to concerns from the city’s CFO by making portions of the tax package dependent on having enough revenue.
This budget process forced us to make many hard choices as an organization, balancing idealism and pragmatism, awareness of both the unaddressed issues facing our city and the current levels of political will for tackling them. We want to thank everyone who contributed to the substantive conversations we had in our community about these decisions. Onward towards a truly progressive tax code and a more equal city!