WASHINGTON — D.C. Council members agreed to spend more money on education but were deeply divided over tax cuts for the wealthy as they voted to give preliminary approval to the District’s $13.8 billion budget for the 2018 fiscal year.
“There are many reduced budgets for various agencies and programs, and as a result, we are forced to think more critically about proposed tax cuts,” said Council member David Grosso. “As the District of Columbia gets bigger, that means that we have more obligations to provide services to our residents.”
The tax cuts, which were approved by the council in 2014, are set to take effect next year. They would increase the amount that people can exempt from their estate taxes from $2 million to about $5.5 million and would bring down the business franchise tax from 9 percent to 8.25 percent.
Grosso and several other members argued aggressively that the council should delay the cuts and spend the savings on schools and social programs.
“Let us not only focus on commitments to cut taxes, but also our commitments to end homelessness and ensure a high-quality education for every single child,” Grosso said.
Council member Elissa Silverman agreed, saying the cuts “impact a very small, wealthy group of people.”
“We have a lot of people who are challenged to live in our city,” she said. “We’re voting for 100 very wealthy people and against thousands of our poorest families and children.”
In the end, however, the council voted to keep the cuts in place.
On a much less controversial issue, council members decided to raise the per-pupil funding level for the city’s public schools and public charter schools by 3 percent. Mayor Muriel Bowser initially called for an increase of 1.5 percent, but that proposal was widely criticized by school administrators and education advocates as being far too low.
The council is scheduled to take a final vote on the budget in about two weeks.