Photo by Damien [Phototrend.fr] on Flickr.
It doesn’t seem like there would be a connection between the amount of affordable housing DC builds, and the cost of a speeding ticket. But those two things might become directly connected this winter.
Last week, the DC Fiscal Policy Institute revealed that the Gray administration plans to pay for lower fines with $25 million in “unexpected revenue,” the money which becomes available if revenue projections in the DC budget are too conservative.
There has been much outcry from drivers about the cost of these tickets, yielding proposals to lower fines from the Council, particularly Councilmember Tommy Wells. This response, however, does more than just lower punishments for unsafe driving. It also penalizes District programs, including affordable housing, which District leaders have already deemed top priorities for unexpected revenue.
In March, Mayor Gray’s proposed budget included $84 million in revenue from speeding tickets, cuts to many human services and affordable housing programs, and a “priority restoration list.” Top on the list are homeless shelters, youth mental health services, and the Housing Production Trust Fund.
The latest budget is the second year the Housing Production Trust Fund has had the majority of its funding used for other programs, with a commitment that it would be a priority for restoration. Of the $38 million removed in the last two years, however, the District has only restored $2 million.
Spending money first on lowering speeding tickets runs counter to the Mayor’s and Council’s own commitments to fund key programs with the first available resources. The Mayor and Council agreed to the list during budget negotiations. This allowed residents directly see the trade-offs between programs, and represented as a set of promises to residents about how it would spend extra revenue.
The Mayor and Council want to act quickly to respond to the public concern over the cost of traffic violations, but they have dragged their feet finding funding to restore the Housing Production Trust Fund and funding the other critical areas. They should not speed to a resolution, without looking at the other impacts this choice would bring to many people in the District of Columbia.