Councilmember Davd Grosso (At-Large)
In front of a packed hearing room, as many held signs in silent protest, the DC Council Tuesday morning rejected an effort by Councilmember David Grosso (At-Large) to delay a cut in the District’s estate tax. The tax cut, which would raise the threshold for the estate tax from $2 million to $5 million, will go into effect in January 2018 unless the Council acts before then.
Some have estimated that the proposed cut in the estate tax would affect only a hundred families in the District.
Alongside a reduction in the business franchise tax that Councilmember Grosso and advocates also unsuccessfully opposed, these cuts come against the backdrop of a tight and stressful budget season.
Metro funding, investments in education, looming federal cuts, and an on-going affordable housing crisis have made for a lot of hard discussions about what should be funded and at what levels. Yet as we’ve covered before, the Council has made things unnecessarily harder for themselves with tax cuts that do little to help the city move forward.
Councilmember Grosso laid out in plain terms the reasons for his opposition. When the District was struggling, he said, the Council bent over backwards to try to attract new businesses. But that effort was with an explicit goal in mind: to lift up all the city’s residents, especially those that had been left behind by a changing economy.
Now, said the councilmember, the District is thriving—but the boom times aren’t being shared by all. Not giving away the revenue from multi-million dollar estates and big businesses’ franchise expansions is a simple way to move towards fulfilling the original vision for growth.
“I’m not quite sure,” said Councilmember Grosso, “how we ended up as a Council aligning with the Trump administration’s budget priorities. We’re looking at underfunding social services and prioritizing tax cuts for big business and the wealthy.”
Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1) and Elissa Silverman (At-Large) joined Grosso in their opposition. Both spoke about the challenges facing the District and the impact that this money could have if directed towards community needs.
Councilmember Trayon White (Ward 8) supported the effort to postpone the estate tax cut, while joining the majority in allowing the business franchise tax cut to move forward.
The rest of the Council followed Chairman Phil Mendelson’s lead in preserving the cuts, with many speaking about a desire to grow the District’s economic output.
As Councilmember Grosso noted, however, economic output is no longer in question. It’s the original vision of inclusive growth that now is imperiled.