How Would You Spend DC’s Surplus?

The District’s budget has a $417 million surplus. If you were on the DC Council, what would you do with it?

Let’s Choose DC (a partnership of PoPville, Greater Greater Washington and DCist) asked the 8 candidates for the April 23 at-large special election. All replied except for Anita Bonds, and we have their responses online at

But first, we’d like to know what you think. When you start voting on Let’s Choose DC, it will first ask you about a set of budget priorities, from the rainy-day fund to social services to tax cuts, which one or more candidates mentioned in their statements. After that, you can look at, and rate, individual candidate responses.

You can vote until midnight Monday, February 11. After that, we’ll do some analysis to try to not only figure out whose responses was most popular, but how people with different sets of budget priorities felt about the candidates.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for the results of last week’s question, on DC’s growth, coming later this week.

42 Comment

  • I want my damn streetcars!

  • Parking signs. Fix the G-D parking signs!

  • Infrastructure: transportation (street cars, etc.) and water (improved sewers, etc.). It would create jobs now, which will boost the larger economy, plus it would be a meaningful investment with long-term payoff.

    If they have to do affordable housing, it should all be located in Georgetown and Bethesda. Time to spread it around.

  • I wouldn’t. If the council spends some on infrastructure, inevitably a large portion gets flushed down the drain on more social programs and ‘affordable housing’ that doesn’t accommodate the middle class.

    • It depends on the type of affordable housing. I see a common misconception echoed in comments on PoP periodically that affordable housing = “lazy, unemployed deadbeats getting a handout.” In fact, affordable housing income eligibility limits are set to a percentage of Area Median Income, typically between the range of 30-80% AMI depending on whether the housing designation is extremely low-income, very low-income, or low-income. DC’s AMI is relatively high compared to the rest of the country, as are its housing costs. For affordable housing purposes, an single individual making $49,000 would be considered “low-income” (80% AMI), as would, for example, a single parent with two kids who’s making $63,000. And there are quite a number of civil servants, health care workers, paraprofessionals, nonprofit workers, and others who are making $49K or less–if they’re not considered part of the “middle class,” that’s kind of concerning.

  • Cut taxes and return it to the taxpayers!

    • +1,000,000

      Returning it to the taxpayers, and/or lowering the tax rates would be the best thing DC ever did – make it competitive with Virginia (Maryland?) and get some of those folks to move in who will patronize the restaurants, support the economy, etc.. Expand the tax base!

      I know plenty of people who will not move into the District b/c they would just end up with a higher tax bill.

    • Yup. Use some of the money for affordable housing and social programs (helping the homeless comes to mind) & save the rest so you can cut taxes to encourage growth & retention over the long term.

  • Raises for police officers, building up infrastructure and improving schools.

  • Improving the schools

  • Deal with the rape kit back log

  • janie4

    I second rape kit backlog. I also suggest improving DOT staffing – do a comprehensive traffic flow study and Time The Stoplights Properly!!!! And a comprehensive rat and rodent abatement program!!!

  • It comes to nearly $2,000 per tax-paying residents. Give it back to those of us who pay taxes. We’ll spend it more efficiently than the government can and in the process we’ll boost the economy and create jobs.

  • Install trash cans on streets where they used to be. Improve trash pickup.

    Actually fix the roads instead of hoarding money dedicated to doing so.

    Stop putting up speed cameras, you have a surplus because fees are too high.

    Plant more trees.

    Encourage business, infrastructure and residential growth by lowering paperwork, fees, and beauracracy.


  • Put it all back into improving and expanding public schools. Tax cut is pretty much the most foolish thing anyone can do.

    You want DC to prosper? Want to increase your property value? Dump lots of money in the schools, hire the best teachers, and improve academics. That will give you the biggest bang for your $417 million. Give people a reason to stay, once their kids hit school age. A lot of people are still moving out of DC once their kids hit school age.

    • This is a joke right? I think places like DC have proven you can’t simply throw money at the problem and expect it to fix itself. DC spends the most per student compared to anywhere else in the nation ($18k or something). Reform is needed. I don’t think DC has special needs compared to anywhere else in the country that requires more per dollar for education.

      Cut taxes for sure.

    • D.C. already spends a lot of money on its schools.

      The problem with D.C. schools isn’t the amount of money, but the school bureaucracy and endemic social issues like poverty, lack of parental involvement, etc.

    • Agree that a tax cut isn’t the best move, but giving more money to DCPS? Really?? As the others noted, DC already spends more per student than anywhere else. Reform and structural changes should be done first.

    • clevelanddave

      Just out of curiousity, why is a tax cut in one of the highest taxed areas in the region not just a bad idea but the worst idea?

    • I don’t know when people will understand, TOO MANY STUDENTS COULD CARE LESS. We are renovating poorly performing schools like that is going to raise test scores and get students motivated. There are many awesome teachers in HORRIBLE schools. Too many students are worried about getting money instead of getting that A. And its not all the students fault either. People having kids they cant afford and give time to take care of them properly.

  • Streetcars – get the dang network running.
    Up Georgia, across Anacostia, down K and up Wisconsin!

  • Why is “fix the bloody roads so they are not confused for roads in Mogadishu” not an option?

  • clevelanddave

    1) How about parking garages that would make some money and alleviate the horrible parking situation in places like Adams Morgan. The suburbs have garages, it would be good for business and it would not ultimately cost the city anything.

    2) Give the money back to the people who paid it- how about a reduction in taxes over say four or five years, to be sure we’ve really got the extra money in the medium term. That is what the govenror in Ohio is doing, reducing the state income tax by .5 percent.

    3) Pay down city bonds, particularly those with higher interest rates.

  • I can’t believe only one person even came close to saying pay off the city debt. So I will say it. PAY OFF THe DEBT FIRST. Be a responsible city and not piss the money away on a city littered with social programs to the point people rather not work and get benefits instead.

  • More police officers. That is all.

  • If a vendor overcharged you wouldn’t you expect a refund? Why is it different in this case? DC government shouldn’t reward itself by keeping the money–it needs to be given back to the taxpayers.

  • more 5-0’s

  • austindc

    I am going to also go with the police option, with a request to also expand enforcement on petty crimes. I like the other votes too though. Lots of good ideas! If we can’t agree on anything, how about a big city-wide happy hour?

  • Considering it does not really “belong” to the DC government, and it is in fact our tax dollars, it should be returned to us since in effect we have been overcharged.

    • +1. A refund would be a great start, but reducing the income tax rate on the highest bracket would be the ideal solution.

      The DC gov’t is in the perfect position to cut tax rates to attract wealthy residents from Maryland and Virginia back to the city. I would also continue liquidating valuable real estate holdings and closing schools with low enrollment.

      The surplus means that taxes are too high, not expenditures are too low.

  • 1. Expand bus service, especially by hiring more drivers. This is already being done to some extent in the weathier neighborhoods where they are needed by commuters, but kids use the public bus to get to school, and run into problems with buses that are late, don’t show up, or can’t stop because they are full. This has got to be affecting the truancy rates. Some kids just give up, or don’t bother because they don’t want to stand in the cold for twenty minutes or more.

    2) DC is hurting for community arts and creative spaces. Name one that is supported by the city in any way.

  • Camera ticket scam refunds?

  • Update the Potomac Gardens housing community in Hill East!

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