The Tax Revision Commission recently released their findings. What are your positions on the various tax code changes recommended by the Tax Revision Commission? How would you ensure that the tax code would protect less affluent taxpayers while continuing the revitalization of neighborhoods and overall economic development?
The revitalization of neighborhoods and overall economic development in DC owe almost nothing to the activities of any DC politician or the DC government.
Allowing charter schools and vouchers has made it tolerable for young families who are not destitute who previously routinely left DC for the suburbs to stay. But the enrichment of DC is due almost entirely to the expansion of the federal government, which has imported tens of thousands of new residents in DC at 6 figure salaries. Long term DC residents, who attended DC public schools, can almost never qualify for these federal jobs, which typically require law or other advanced degrees.
The economic development DC needs is a growing private sector that can employ people, or better yet allow people to start their own business, who had the disadvantage of having attended the average DC public school. DC also needs to end its extreme lack of diversification and complete dependence on the federal government – in 2013, with the tiny reductions in the growth of federal spending caused by sequestration, commercial real estate vacancies in DC and surrounding areas increased noticeably.
One part, but only one part, of what DC needs to have a growing, diversified, non-government dependent, private sector is lower and flatter taxes. I suspect that to achieve that we would need a new study of taxes and spending in DC. (I very much doubt a commission appointed by the current sometimes 12 term dinosaurs who run the DC government, the same people who “nullified” the term limits initiative passed by 66% of the voters in the mid 90s, could find the tax cuts and tax simplification actually needed.)
The Commission has proposed over 60 changes, including a small commuter tax disguised as a “per employee” fee on large employers, which will simply discourage job growth, something DC badly needs as it has double digit unemployment in its poorer Wards and among long term residents who attended DC public schools. If and when Maryland and Virginia begin to start looking at their own versions of a commuter tax on well-healed DC residents who work at well paying suburban employers, I will oppose any and all such commuter taxes.
What policies do you support to create more affordable housing?
D.C. has a unique mix of policies and economic realities that have driven up housing prices in DC. The primary one, which the DC government can do little about, is the huge demand for middle and upper middle class housing caused by the expansion of the federal government and its importation of thousands of highly credentialed and well paid technocrats to work in bureaucracy, law, and lobbying.
But the local DC government itself also restricts the supply of housing with a variety of regulations: 1) zoning is estimated to raise housing prices by as much as 30-40% in some cases (http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2013/12/10/housing_costs_it_s_the_zoning_stupid.html); 2) DC prohibits buildings over 10-12 stories, including in Anacostia and other neighborhoods far from the Mall or Capitol, and even in neighborhoods like Friendship Heights, Foggy Bottom, or Takoma Park DC that are literally across the street or across a river from 30 and 40 story buildings in Arlington, Bethesda, or Silver Spring; 3) DC is the one place where Nixon’s wage and price controls were never lifted, in the form of DC rent control, which applies to even very small investors who own 4 or 5 units in DC, discouraging them from investing in or maintaining smaller, older, multi-unit buildings for medium income renters, and instead selling them for condominium conversion or demolition.
I would eliminate all of these laws and regulations that restrict the supply of housing and the agencies that promulgate them. This would allow a housing market to function normally, where older housing stocks often command form a market of moderate priced rentals, instead of being demolished to build new luxury lofts and commercial buildings.
What changes would you support to improve the election process and increase voter participation?
Implement the term limits referendum passed by the DC voters in 1994 by 66%, illegally nullified by the city government. Make all current incumbents who have stayed beyond the term limits approved then leave office.
Forbid corporate or union PAC donations to any incumbent as a condition of their accepting continued government employment.
What is the major issue facing our charter schools and the major issue facing our traditional public schools? How would you address these issues?
We need to ensure that school choice is not stymied by anti-reform forces that have profited for too long by denying families choice, making children their wards, and milking them for tax dollars while delivering substandard education.
DC should expand its voucher program, add education tax credits, make both program apply to home schooling, and facilitate the growth of charters. Abandoned and underused school buildings and other government property should be transferred to charters or other non-profits, or sold off.