Gray proposes to cut D.C.’s commercial tax rate, slightly

Mayor Vincent Gray’s budget proposal cuts D.C.’s commercial tax rate, repeals the out-of-state municipal bond tax, funds the District’s community college, increases spending on the arts and funds a pilot Events D.C. advertising campaign.

There’s a major catch to this wish list, however: None of it gets funded unless Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi’s remaining 2012 revenue estimates — in May, September and December — exceed the estimate incorporated into the budget plan.

That’s a big, big if, considering the iffy economy. But the District’s bottom line has been improving of late, so it’s impossible to rule it out.

The fiscal 2013 Budget Support Act includes a 25-item list of spending proposals totaling more than $120 million. If approved by the D.C. Council — another big “if” — the items are to be funded in order, starting with $7 million for homeless services, then $14.7 million for welfare job programs, $23 million for the D.C. Healthcare Alliance and $20 million for the rent supplement program.

At No. 12 on the list is $10 million to reduce the commercial property tax rate on the first $3 million of assessed value from $1.65 to $1.55. The rate after $3 million of assessed value would remain $1.85.

At No. 6 on the list is $1.1 million to repeal the out-of-state municipal bond tax, implemented only last year. No. 14 would provide $6.4 million for the community college, while No. 15 would award the University of the District of Columbia $3 million for an “early out” program.

Down further, No. 18 would provide the D.C. Public Library with $1 million to restore its materials budget. There’s $3 million for the Commission on Arts and Humanities at No. 22, and $1 million, at No. 23, for a Destination D.C./Events D.C. pilot advertising and marketing program.

The budget discussions get started Tuesday with Gray’s appearance before the council.

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