- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 29, 2014

The vote that matters on the new D.C. budget plan hasn’t happened yet, although the vote Wednesday has gotten considerable reaction — and it should have.

City hall’s red button alternately flashes “tax, cut, spend.”

For the first time in 15 years, the D.C. Council paid Peter, Paul and Mary by approving tax cuts for every Tom, Dick and Harriet who calls D.C. home.

Lawmakers also, in the process, kicked the streetcar-funding can down the road, leaving the mayor “deeply disappointed” and Marion S. Barry on the right side for a change.

That, however, is where the puns end, for what the council plans to do in next month’s vote is turn on the spigot.

Newborn babies will begin receiving the cash money that their parents cannot because of the 60-month limit stipulated in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, or TANF.

So mom or dad still gets the money for up to six months or so; they just won’t be held accountable for it.

And speaking of accountability — or more precisely, the lack thereof — lawmakers are funding a new homeless program. The dollar amount is a mere $2 million, which itself really and truly isn’t much in the scheme of a $10.7 billion plan for fiscal 2015.

What’s at stake is whether the programs already on the books are working and why we looked to New York City to show us how to improve and coordinate services for the homeless and underprivileged.

This sounds like one of those cases of mistaken identity: NYC has a state to lean on for housing services; D.C. has well, that’s the point.

And speaking of housing, in addition to spending new money on a new housing program, the council also tentatively approved a plan to boost rent subsidies for the homeless. Did legislators think of boosting spending so single residents and families can buy their own homes?

Those would be investments of the long-term kind that help to sustain economic futures.

Don’t for a moment think new taxes aren’t on the table, as the council wants to start levying sales taxes on bowling alleys, storage-rental facilities, car washes and health clubs.

Meanwhile, the streetcar proposal is being somewhat derailed, with none other than Mr. Barry, a long-in-the-tooth big spender, calling the Gray administration proposal “poorly planned.”

Essentially what’s happened is spending for social services keeps rising while taxes go up.

I certainly applaud lawmakers for finally shining a light toward the end of the high-taxes tunnel, but they are being too hasty on the new spending for social services.

Sorry for the next puns, but election-year haste always makes waste with chickens coming home to roost a short time later.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.