Mayor Bowser defends 2025 budget cuts, $515M investment in Capitol One arena

Higher taxes and spending cuts: D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser was on the hot seat today as she testified before the D.C. Council about her proposed 2025 budget. 

They’re not happy about the cuts, and it all comes just a day after the council approved $515 million in Capital One Arena improvements. 

One after another they let the mayor hear about it Wednesday. Bowser herself has described her $21 billion operational budget for the D.C. government as "sober" and requiring "tough decisions" but council members repeatedly question why programs like rental assistance, child care, public works and school staffing are having to tighten their belts.

The budget includes a sales tax increase from 6% to 6.5% next year and some cuts in services due to the end of federal COVID funds and a billion-dollar budget gap. 

Bowser says right now, she’s focused on three pillars: public schools, public safety and downtown investment.

"In fiscal 2025 this saved us approximately $500 million. We looked to see if we could go deeper, but going deeper would mean cuts to programs that I know none of us would like to touch," Bowser said.  

But the mayor’s promise of shared sacrifice in her budget is being rejected by some who say that, coming on the heels of giving over half a billion dollars to fix up Capital One area, budget cuts for services D.C. residents rely only hurts people in need. 

"Shared sacrifices can not just be disproportionately by lower-income residents or small businesses," said Councilmember At-Large Kenyan R. McDuffie.

 "I do disagree with this ‘shared sacrifice’ part because it feels like we’re proposing to balance this budget on the backs of Black and brown women," said At-Large Councilmember Christina Henderson.

Demonstrators who gathered in the Wilson Building say the "sacrifice" isn't being shared by everyone.

"Budgets are about choices and the choice to cut early childhood education and other critical services in the district budget is not a fair choice, it’s not a moral choice and it’s not a choice about how we make a stronger recovery," said Joanna Blotner, the D.C. Action director of Government Affairs.

The D.C. Council will have 70 days to hold more hearings on the budget before it votes on approval. It then needs to be sent to Congress which has 30 days to change it or let it go into effect.  since the district is not a state, Congress has the final say on D.C.’s spending plan.