- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 30, 2017


Ever since Richard Nixon presented stakeholders in the nation’s capital with limited home rule in 1973, Democrats have held the purse strings and dived into public coffers for liberal causes.

Next week, D.C. Dems are set to grab the shears to grant businesses a measure of tax relief.

As things currently stand, the D.C. Council is set to vote Tuesday on two pieces of tax-cutting legislation, including a targeted proposal to cut the commercial property tax rate from $1.65 to 85 cents per hundred dollars of assessed value.

A third measure, still pending before the council’s Business and Economic Development Committee, would focus on potential retail and housing moneymakers such as the Capitol Gateway, Penn Hills and the Skyland Town Center.

The first bill set for a vote on Tuesday is the East End Commercial Real Property Tax Rate Reduction Amendment Act of 2017, which would wisely lower the commercial property tax rate. The measure calls for the tax cut to sunset in 10 years.

Introduced by Vincent Gray, Ward 7 Democrat, the legislation has seven solid supporters, including Democrats Jack Evans, Kenyan McDuffie, Anita Bonds and Robert White.

The tax cut is a companion to the East End Grocery and Retail Incentive Tax Exemption Act, which proposes to boost supermarkets and fresh produce possibilities in Mr. Gray’s Ward 7 and in Ward 8, which is represented by Democrat Trayon White. Both wards have long been considered food deserts, and both are steeped with residents battling multiple chronic illnesses and substance abuse. They also are home to high unemployment.

What’s also sad is that Wards 7 and 8 were in line to get new Walmarts, which could have provided fresh food and a pharmacy. However, after dirt had been shoveled and signage erected, Walmart backed out of projects at Skyland and the Capital Gateway, near the city’s border with Maryland.

The Walmart decision left Mayor Muriel Bowser “blood mad” — and so it goes in business as in politics.

That Mr. Gray, a former mayor, is spearheading the tax cut and economic development push is no coincidence. He lost to Miss Bowser in the 2014 mayor’s game, er, race, and she’s laced her sneakers for another run in 2018.

2018 is when, by design, the third ingredient of Mr. Gray’s political roux is poured into the mix. His third measure, the East End Health Equity and Food Justice Act of 2017, proposes funding the construction of anchor grocery and retail stores at Skyland, the Capital Gateway and — get this — the 21-acre United Medical Center site.

The hospital also sits on the border with Maryland, and United Medical has been politically sick for two decades: Miss Bowser has her ideas for the site, and Mr. Gray has his.

Lawmakers would prove themselves to be on the right side of economics by approving the property-tax relief measure, and whether that relief should span 10 or 30 years is worthy of serious public debate. They could ask themselves, for instance, if the $50 million gifted to Abe Pollin for what now is called the Capitol One Arena was worth it.

Public deliberations simply pay attention to the dollars and cents of economic policy.

Petty election-year politics, however, can ruin even the worthiest of intentions, especially when those intentions rest on tax cuts and spending.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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