Newsletter: We Passed the Budget!
Next year’s budget is done! It may not have been as climactic as the NBA Western Conference Finals Monday night (congrats Warriors!), but yesterday we passed an exciting FY17 budget for the District. After many months of meetings, negotiations, and community conversations, I’m thrilled to move forward with a budget that allocates funds to close D.C. General, preserve affordable housing for District residents, and increase unemployment benefits, among other successes for District residents. Thank you to Mayor Bowser and each of my Council colleagues for working collaboratively to pass a budget that I believe works in the interest of our residents and our city!
For those that have been following the budget process closely, it’s been a long road. Earlier this year, I proposed a list of budget priorities for FY17 and celebrated some preliminary wins that the Mayor funded in her budget proposal. I also asked many of your questions at budget oversight hearings for District agencies and reviewed numerous funding requests during committee budget mark-ups.
WHAT’S UP WITH OUR LEGISLATIVE AGENDA
Paying Our Employees a $15 Minimum Wage: We talk a lot about how difficult it is to afford housing in the District, and this year’s budget shows how hard the Council has been working to prioritize this issue – but we can’t forget that paying a living wage is one of the most effective ways to be sure residents can afford to pay their rent.
The median income in the District is $32 an hour, one of the highest in the country. But many people in our region are still struggling to pay their rent and bills on our current minimum wage of $10.50 an hour. Reports show that nearly 14% of District employees would be affected by a raised minimum wage. That’s nearly 114,000 people who we can give a real opportunity to move into the middle class.
Last Thursday, I listened to over 10 hours of testimony from employers and employees, primarily in the hospitality industry, supporting raising the District’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. People need jobs that pay enough to support families, but they also need better job training opportunities and more income security when they get sick or need to take time away from work to care for their families. We can’t afford to focus on only one part of the equation, which I why I support a higher minimum wage, better job training, and paid family leave for District families to thrive.
Thank you to Committee Chairman Vincent Orange for his ongoing leadership on raising the minimum wage and for holding the hearing. You can watch the testimony here to see what was said.
Saving Money by Investing in Renewable Energy: While it didn’t spark nearly 11 hours of testimony, I was eager to attend another hearing last week on a bill I introduced last September to boost solar energy production across the city. The bill would maintain compliance fees for energy producers to increase the Renewable Energy Development Fund (REDF), a fund used to provide loans, grants, rebates, and other financial incentives to support the creation of new solar energy sources. Energy efficiency is one of the most economically and environmentally sound ways of lowering utility costs and reducing carbon emissions. That is why I’m also working to target REDF subsidies toward households earning less than the area median income and apply the fund to energy efficiency improvements for low-income homes.
Witnesses highlighted the need to address climate change, create well-paying jobs for D.C. residents that do not require a college degree, provide lower cost energy to disadvantaged residents, and take advantage of the health benefits of reduced pollution. I am also very interested in the workforce development opportunity here, as witnesses testified that a number of jobseekers with limited or no skills can be trained and certified for jobs that pay $17-21/hour.
Thank you to Committee Chairperson Mary Cheh for holding the hearing and working with me to ensure the District continues to increase its use of renewable energy and provide workforce opportunities to District residents. With my bill and a complementary bill she introduced, the District would have some of the strongest targets and incentives for solar and other renewable production in the country from now through 2023.
IN THE COMMUNITY
DPR Pools are Open! I heard from a number of parents throughout the budget process who were concerned about Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) pool staffing and opening hours. Thanks to their advocacy, my staff worked with the Committee on Transportation and the Environment to ensure that DPR will be opening their pools earlier this season. Though seemingly small, I know this will make a big difference for families with small children. Check out the summer pool schedule here, which just kicked off this past weekend!
Bike to Work Day: When are pools best enjoyed? Right after a long bike ride of course! This month, I also participated in Bike to Work Day 2016. You can watch the video here or click the image to hear what made me choose cycling as a hobby. I hope you’re able to enjoy some fun in the sun soon!
Thanks for reading.