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RELEASE: In Call to Action, Coalition Urges DC Lawmakers to Pause Restrictive Fiscal Policies

January 31, 2017

In Urgent Call to Action, Broad-Based Coalition Urges DC Lawmakers to Pause Restrictive Fiscal Policies that Threaten to Leave Residents’ Needs Unaddressed

50 Prominent Groups Sign Letter Offering Steps to Create Fiscal Flexibility

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an unprecedented letter, more than 50 leading social service, legal services and advocacy groups are offering Mayor Muriel Bowser and DC Council members a series of recommendations to “untie DC’s hands” and make it possible for its FY 2018 budget to more fully address the needs of residents. The letter was released this morning at Progress Amidst Uncertainty: Making the Most of DC’s 2018 Budget, a forum sponsored by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute and a number of other organizations.

Noting the “many daunting challenges” facing the District – including a spiraling affordable housing and homelessness crisis, a struggling public transit system and threats to federal funding for critical safety-net supports for DC residents – the letter warns that DC’s current restrictive fiscal policy ties the hands of officials and limits their ability to maintain a vital city and care for residents.

“The District is thriving financially, with growing revenues and healthy reserves,” said Ed Lazere, executive director of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, which organized the letter, “yet we’ve adopted policies that tie the city’s hands and limit our ability to use growing resources to meet our biggest challenges. We must take steps now to ensure that we will be able to meet the needs of residents next year and beyond.” The letter urges elected officials to:

  • Spend DC’s surplus from FY 2016 for affordable housing, school modernization, Metro repair costs and/or other priorities;
  • Put automatic tax cuts on hold for 2018. Noting that more than $100 million of growing revenue has gone to tax cuts so far, the letter warns that current inflexible policy ties leaders’ hands and limits their ability to meet emerging human needs; and
  • Create a cushion in DC’s 2018 budget to offset looming federal budget cuts, so there is a reserve that can be easily accessed to address the needs of residents in the District.

The forum also featured remarks by Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and former chief economist and economic advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, and a panel discussion led by Children’s Law Center Executive Director Judith Sandalow that included Bread for the City Executive Director George Jones, Academy of Hope Charter School CEO Lecester Johnson, and DC residents Angela Hodges and Keyla Ryland.

The forum was co-sponsored by Children’s Law Center; DC Alliance of Youth Advocates; DC Environmental Network; Fair Budget Coalition; Jews United for Justice; Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia; Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO; Miriam’s Kitchen; and Washington Interfaith Network – the same groups that drafted and organized the sign-on letter.

The letter with all 51 signers is posted here.

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The DC Fiscal Policy Institute conducts research and public education on budget and tax issues in the District of Columbia, with a particular emphasis on issues that affect low- and moderate-income residents. By preparing timely analyses that are used by policy makers, the media, and the public, DCFPI seeks to inform public debates on budget and tax issues and to ensure that the needs of lower-income residents are considered in those debates.

Contact: Luci Manning