The D.C. City Council unanimously voted to approve the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Support Act of 2020 in a virtual meeting on July 28. As the second of two required votes on the budget, last Tuesday’s vote finalizes the District’s $16.8 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year, beginning October 1.
According to the D.C. budget process, the mayor’s office must release an initial proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year every spring. While the finalized budget is broadly similar to Mayor Muriel Bowser’s original proposal, the Council’s amendments allocate increased resources aimed to mitigate the public health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to address issues of racial and economic inequality in the District.
The most notable change from the original budget came in an earlier vote, where the Council passed a $15 million cut to the Metropolitan Police Department that was strongly opposed by Bowser.
The budget also features increased funding for public housing repairs and devotes $88 million to support the construction of new affordable housing units in the District. Additional funds will also be directed towards rental eviction prevention efforts, community-based violence prevention, and restorative justice programs.
Additionally, the budget provides increased public education funding towards in-school mental health resources and efforts to increase early literacy. The vote comes as D.C. Public Schools announced an all-virtual start to the school year for over 48,000 students.
Finally, the budget features significant measures to make up for a projected $1.49 billion decrease in revenue from pre-pandemic projections for the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years. This includes increasing gasoline taxes, cutting non-essential operating costs, and increasing franchise taxes on technology companies who previously qualified for a 0 percent tax break through the Qualified High Technology Company tax incentives program.
If Bowser signs the Council’s finalized budget, the local portion, including areas such as education and public transportation, will be submitted to Congress for a 30-day review, and, if approved and signed by the president, become law. Elements of the budget that are reliant upon federal funding will be submitted to the President for inclusion in a federal appropriations act. These additional steps are the result of D.C.’s status as a territory, rather than a state.