I am responding to the series of editorials [April 15, April 27, May 4, May 10, May 17] that criticized the tax cut that I and Council member David Catania recently proposed. The tax proposal was subject to significant analysis and eventually was passed unanimously by the council and approved by both the mayor and the control board. That tax proposal reduces:
Property taxes by adopting the Tax Review Commission proposal.
Small business taxes by adopting the mayor's proposals.
Business taxes as advocated by the Tax Review Commission.
Personal income taxes at all levels.
As the debate continues in Congress as to whether to approve the District's tax-relief package, several additional points should be noted. First, the "Tax Parity Act of 1999" is not a partisan idea; it is a good idea. I drafted the original provisions without prompting from any political party. I did so because the District has the highest tax rates in the region and in some categories the highest tax rates in the nation. To survive and prosper, the District must become competitive.
The FY '00 budget increases spending by more than $130 million and includes increases of $23 million for Public Safety and Justice, $61.5 million for public schools, $13 million for Public Works and $11 million for Human Services. The budget also includes an additional $15 million for youth initiatives.
The D.C. government spends more per capita in almost every category than any other state or city. The FY '00 budget of $4.65 billion for 525,000 residents is the highest per capita of any jurisdiction. On a gross budget basis, the District spends more money per student than any other system in the region. It spends more on police and has more police officers per capita than any city in the country. It also spends more per capita on municipal and human services than any other city. As my council colleague Carol Schwartz has said, "If high taxes meant good services, we should have the best services in the country." We don't.
Spending more money does not mean better services. Spending money efficiently and holding people accountable will produce better services. Because of the great economic expansion, the District can afford to increase spending for education, public safety and municipal services and still implement a tax cut. This is responsible government.
We need to make our city livable and affordable for residents and businesses in order to attract future growth. Better schools, a safer environment, quality services and lower taxes are all critical elements for a thriving and growing District.
The writer, a Democrat, represents Ward 2 on the D.C. Council.