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May 7, 2017

The District’s Unsustainable Budget!

Sun May 07, 2017 at 05:09:24 PM EST

By Chris Weiss, DC Environmental Network

DC Environmental Network:

We have an unsustainable budget and need your help!

As many of you know we are right in the middle of the District’s budget season. Mayor Muriel Bowser has sent her budget to the DC Council, the DC Council has already held most of their budget hearings, and now a mad scurry has begun to try and quickly decide what the Council’s budget priorities are and what changes need to be made. In just ten days the eleven different Council committee’s will begin marking up their share of the overall budget, and soon after that, the full Council will vote twice on the entire budget.

The DC Environmental Network (DCEN) has tried to give you opportunities to learn about the piece of the budget pie you care about the most. DCEN and the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, held two special budget briefings, one with the Department of Public Works, and the other with the Department of Energy and the Environment. Around 20 different environmental organizations, and a number of individual advocates participated.

The DC Environmental Network testified at two Council budget hearings and shared our initial thoughts, based on the information we had so far, on how the District should spend our shared tax dollars. Here is the testimony:

District Department of Public Works, April 26, 2017

District Department of Energy and Environment, April 28, 2017

DCEN has received over 150 phone calls and emails, from other District environmental organizations and advocates, asking how federal spending might impact our local programs. We have done the best we can to give folks our perspective, although the lack of transparency, by much of the Legislative and Executive Branch, makes us have to work far harder than we should to get the most basic information. (The budget documents are often cryptic and we have been told, contain a healthy number of typos.)

Regardless we have identified a number of budget priorities we want to point out and hope the environmental community will, over the next ten days, engage the Council and let them know we care. DCEN has already been walking the halls of the Council’s Wilson Building, asking questions, and advocating for our sustainability goals. Our main concerns include:

– Restoring DC Recycling Programs: Mayor Bowser eliminated two full time jobs and other funds from DPW’s Office of Waste Diversion (OWD). OWD is the office that is primarily in charge of recycling programs and is focused on trying to move the District away from being the worst recycler in the region. We are requesting that the DC Council restore funding for the two Office of Waste Diversion staff (FTE’s) as well as all the nonpersonel funds that were slashed from their budget. We are also requesting that the DC Council direct DPW to use some of the restored non-personal funds to plan and implement a Save As You Throw (SAYT) pilot in 2018.

– Restoring $3 Million in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Funds: Every year the District and federal government make LIHEAP money available to help low income District residents who cannot pay their energy bills. This program is administered by DOEE. DCEN has been told that in order for the District to minimally duplicate the last fiscal years help, the Council will have to find an additional $3 million dollars. DCEN is particularly concerned about these funds this year because the poverty focused non-profits that normally engage in advocacy on LIHEAP currently have too many other budget shortfalls to deal with. DCEN is going to try and do what we can to restore these funds.  Currently it does not look good, and the District may end up telling District residents, at a time of critical need, that there are no more funds.

– Restoring $5 Million in Capital Funds for Anacostia River Clean-Up: Mayor Bowser removed $5 million capital budget dollars that were targeted for hazardous material remediation of the Anacostia River bottom sediments and the contaminated land areas adjacent (particularly to Ward 8’s Poplar Point and Ward 7’s Kenilworth North). With upcoming clean-up requirements looming, the timing of this reduction could not be worse. Additionally, this cut may create budget pressures on other important DOEE programs as the District scrambles to fulfill its statutory requirements. The DC Environmental Network primarily recommends that the Council try and restore the $5 million capital budget dollars. We also support the efforts of other organizations to, ideally, recommend finding additional capital dollars, possibly as much as $10 million, to continue progress on all remediation projects.

As you can see we have our work cut out for us. Luckily, we are coordinating with a number of DC focused organizations in trying to impact all of these budget items. We could also use some help from you!

DCEN is going to be down at the Wilson Building every day prior to the committee mark-ups. If you want to help us at scheduled meetings and office visits, give us a call at 202-754-7088 or email cweiss@globalgreen.org. Hope you can join us.

Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network 

 

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