From 2009-2011, the District of Columbia cut more than $120 million in funding for services such as domestic violence resources, affordable housing, and childcare, services that help struggling low-income families and keep our communities secure and strong. Meanwhile, DC’s income tax structure was incredibly regressive: All income over $40,000/year was taxed at one rate. Fiscal year 2012’s budget was estimated to have a $322 million deficit. We took action to ensure that the City Council did not balance the budget on the backs of our city’s most vulnerable residents, and we succeeded.
The Invest in DC campaign fought for progressive taxes and other revenue to protect vital safety net programs that ensure our neighbors’ basic needs are met. To close the budget gap and protect critical programs, JUFJ joined with a coalition of groups from across the city to demand smart, responsible action from our city government. The progressive budget coalition proposed that DC commit to funding safety-net programs. To pay for these programs, we advocated raising taxes on the highest-income earners, who have been the least affected by the current economic recession.
JUFJ was a key partner in the progressive budget coalition. As a predominantly affluent group, we were able to articulate our investment in our city and commitment to pay fair taxes that fit our means. Many of our members said as much in their testimony before the council and at house meetings we organized. At these house meetings, hosts stressed their Jewish values as the reason why they thought DC’s wealthiest citizens should have higher taxes so that vital programs could receive funding.
In response to the campaign, the council instituted a new top tax rate of 8.95% on taxable income over $350,000, effective through 2015. Thanks to the work of hundreds of our members and partners across the city, the above-and-beyond dedication of campaign co-chairs Ari Weisbard and Zach Teutsch, and the crucial push from JUFJ Community Organizer Dan Gordon, we won a major victory on May 25, 2011, when the DC Council passed a budget that restored tens of millions of dollars for critical services.