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Opinion | Raising taxes this much in D.C. will backfire

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Opinion | Raising taxes this much in D.C. will backfire


Like many U.S. cities, D.C. faces a cash crunch. Costs have risen for nearly everything, while revenue has been relatively flat. Cities have run through federal pandemic relief dollars, of which D.C. received more than $3 billion. Commercial property taxes have fallen sharply, in tandem with property values, and are likely to deteriorate further as buildings sit empty. The District’s leaders have tough choices to make in their 2025 budget to close a $700 million hole. The top priorities are clear: public safety, downtown revitalization and youth. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s proposed budget would spend just shy of $21 billion. The D.C. Council’s plan spend about $41 million more than the mayor’s. Their big differences lie in the policy details, and they matter.

Taxes are going up, but the two branches disagree over which levies to increase — and how much. Ms. Bowser (D) would raise the paid family leave tax that businesses pay, add an 80-cent per night fee on hotel rooms and increase the sales tax (gradually, from 6 percent now to 7 percent by fiscal 2027). In total, revenue would rise $447 million next year under the mayor’s proposal. The council would raise more — $550 million in new revenue next year — via both a higher paid family leave tax and higher property taxes on homes worth $2.5 million or above. In fact, the council’s budget closes the vast majority of the budget shortfall via higher taxes.

That’s unwise. Raising so many taxes, in lieu of spending cuts, signals to businesses and residents that legislators are unable to focus on what truly matters. It’s also a warning sign of more taxes and fees to come if budget holes persist. As business leaders consider whether to keep their business in the city or relocate to Maryland or Virginia, they will factor in the city’s public safety and finances.

The council eliminated the mayor’s proposed hotel fee, arguing it would hurt D.C.’s ability to compete for conferences and events. A similar logic should apply to the council’s own proposed tripling of the family leave payroll tax, from the current level of 0.26 percent of wages paid to an employee to 0.75 percent. (Ms. Bowser is proposing 0.62 percent.) This tax is supposed to fund employees’ time off work to care for a baby or a sick family member, but it will soon be used for general city expenses. In contrast, the council’s property tax increase would be relatively modest and targeted at the most expensive homes.

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As for spending, it’s encouraging that the mayor and council agreed on more money for the police and for converting unused offices to other uses, as well as for strategically transforming public spaces and empty storefronts. Education also receives a bump, though the mayor and council continue to spar over how much should go to the central office vs. schools. In that case, the council is right to emphasize funding teachers and classroom needs.

The other reality in the District is a vast income and wealth inequality that is especially pronounced between White and Black households. Ms. Bowser proposed steep cuts to critical programs for those less well-off, including housing assistance for struggling families, the Access to Justice program that provides civil legal assistance to low-income residents, and the Early Childhood Educator Pay Equity Fund that subsidizes pay for child-care workers. The council mostly restores these, but then goes a step further by creating a new Child Tax Credit (CTC) of $420 per child to provide more money to low- and middle-income families with kids and a Baby Bonds program to invest $1,000 per year per low-income child. It would be better to fund Baby Bonds through a private foundation than public dollars, and this is not the right time to do a CTC for married couples earning up to $240,000 a year.

Chief Financial Officer Glen Lee has to sign off on whatever the mayor and council adopt. Residents and Congress are not going to be comfortable if he does not. We are glad to see the mayor and council working closely with Mr. Lee as the June 12 budget vote approaches. The District has to replenish its reserves, but not necessarily in 2025. There’s a smart compromise in the works to ensure the city will have adequate liquidity to pay all bills on time by allowing the CFO to temporarily tap into different trust funds, if needed. This is a common tactic used by other state and local governments and works well as long as a good accounting and audit systems are in place.

As the council makes its final tweaks, there has to be a reality check on taxes and spending. Scaling back is hard. But making tough choices now is better than losing business to Virginia and Maryland.



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Washington Commanders Offense to Look Different Under OC Kliff Kingsbury

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Washington Commanders Offense to Look Different Under OC Kliff Kingsbury


The Washington Commanders roster reload brought every bit of juice to Washington D.C. Not only because there is a new set of talent on the team, but because there are new coordinators and coaches running the operation, which will have the franchise looking quite different.

Drafting LSU product Jayden Daniels with the No. 2 overall pick and hiring offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury — along with an entire fresh coaching staff — will lead to a potential offensive resurgence.

Last season, the Commanders had the No. 24 offense in the league, according to their 312.8 yards per game. Eric Bieniemy’s Commanders offense was a pass-first offense, though they didn’t do so efficiently.

READ MORE: Commanders Tight End Duo Listed in Fantasy Football Rankings by PFF

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Pro Football Focus recently “clustered” offenses together, which left Washington in Cluster 1 — pass-heavy teams that were fairly efficient in doing so.

“The Commanders led the league in pass rate in 2023 (69.6%) but ranked only 26th in passing grade (60.9),” PFF wrote.

So, the Commanders are coming off a season in which they passed plenty. The Commanders will have a different offensive outlook this season. With Kingsbury taking over the offense, there will be a more “balanced approach.”

Not only is Daniels an incredible dual-threat quarterback, but the team has talented wide receivers and two solid running backs — one of those being newly acquired Austin Ekeler.

Ekeler is a threat in both the run and pass game, and his versatility only adds to the balanced offense, opening up more possibilities.

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“We want to be balanced,” Kingsbury said of his offense. “We want to be able to run the football and play-action pass and really do whatever it takes to win.”

With a potential star dual-threat quarterback, there will be plenty of opportunity to simply do whatever it takes to win. They’ll be in the shotgun formation plenty, thanks to Kingsbury’s air raid roots. Still, it seems the offensive coordinator is open to switching things up and giving the offense new looks, which should leave Commanders fans hopeful.

With Daniels under center and talent in both the backfield and in the wide receiver room, the Commanders’ offense could be intriguing to watch and potentially explosive with the amount of versatility all around.

READ MORE: Was Drafting Jayden Daniels Washington Commanders ‘Biggest Gamble’ Of Offseason?

Stick with CommanderGameday and the Locked On Commanders podcast for more coverage of the Washington Commanders throughout the 2024 season.

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Bordeaux powerhouse winery buys Virginia’s RdV Vineyards

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Bordeaux powerhouse winery buys Virginia’s RdV Vineyards


RdV Vineyards, the upstart winery determined to prove that Virginia wine could stand proudly among the world’s best in quality and price, has been purchased by the owners of Bordeaux’s famed Château Montrose, the companies announced Monday in a joint statement posted on the RdV website.

The sale represents the first entry by a Bordeaux powerhouse into the eastern United States and the first major foreign wine investment in Virginia since Italy’s Zonin family established Barboursville Vineyards in 1976. Financial terms were not disclosed.

RdV’s founder, Rutger de Vink, will remain through the 2024 harvest as a consultant. The rest of the RdV team will stay on board, including winemaker Joshua Grainer, a master of wine. The winery will be renamed Lost Mountain Vineyards, after the series of hills on which the vineyard sits, and will be under the direction of Grainer and Pierre Graffeuille, CEO of Château Montrose.

“The renaming is a natural outcome of the purchase and a celebration of the new era,” the companies said in the statement, which was expected to be issued in Bordeaux on Tuesday. “Converting RdV, Rutger de Vink’s initials, into ‘Lost Mountain’ pays tribute to the remarkable terroir of this ancient knoll once beloved by America’s founding father, George Washington.”

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In an email to close contacts Monday, de Vink praised his winery team and supporters. “This time has given me purpose and happiness, not to mention the fulfillment of knowing we have created a world-class wine and helped put Virginia on the worldwide wine map,” he wrote. “Together, we have created something that many said could not be done.”

Château Montrose is a leading producer in the St.-Estèphe appellation of Bordeaux’s Left Bank. Classified as a second growth under the 1855 Bordeaux classification, it has been owned since 2006 by Martin and Olivier Bouygues, billionaire brothers who steer a family conglomerate operating in telecommunications, media and construction. They also own Château Tronquoy in St.-Estèphe, Clos Rougeard in the Loire Valley and Domaine Henri Rebourseau in Burgundy, as well as a cognac distillery and a truffle farm. This will be their first U.S. wine venture.

Those holdings and Lost Mountain Vineyards will be grouped under a new company called Eutopia Estates, the announcement said. It will be headed by Charlotte Bouygues, daughter of Martin and Melissa Bouygues. Melissa is a native of Baton Rouge.

Montrose is the first Bordeaux house to invest in Virginia, but the Old Dominion has enjoyed French influence over the years. De Vink enlisted Eric Boissenot, a consultant for four of the five Bordeaux first-growth chateaux, to blend his wines, and Jean-Philippe Roby to consult in the vineyard. Michel Rolland, Stephane Deronencourt and Lucien Guillemet have consulted elsewhere in Virginia. And several French-born winemakers are currently active. Several Bordeaux wineries have properties or partnerships in Napa Valley.

In 2004, after apprenticing under Jim Law at Linden Vineyards in Virginia and David Ramey in California, de Vink purchased a 93-acre sheep farm off Route 17 near Delaplane, in Fauquier County. The estate now includes 18 acres under vine, mostly Bordeaux varieties, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot, and a retro-modern winery that resembles a farmhouse on the outside and a concrete and metal temple to wine inside.

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From the 2008 vintage, RdV focused on two wines: a top cuvée called Lost Mountain, based on cabernet sauvignon, and a second blend, Rendezvous. Juice that didn’t make these wines was bottled as Friends and Family and occasionally showed up in shops or restaurants. RdV has also made small amounts of rosé and this year will produce its first white, a blend of albarino and semillon.

Even before RdV released its inaugural 2008s in April 2011, it was generating buzz as a potential Virginia first growth or an American grand cru.

Critics were impressed with the initial wines but skeptical that any from Virginia could fetch $88 and $55 a bottle. De Vink proved the skeptics wrong: The wines were an immediate success and caught the attention of British wine writer Jancis Robinson and chefs Eric Ziebold and José Andrés. The wines have improved over the years and are now on wine lists at many of the nation’s top restaurants, including Le Bernardin and Per Se in New York and the Bazaar and Minibar in Washington.

De Vink rejected the hospitality model familiar at Virginia wineries. RdV has no tasting room and does not host weddings. Tastings are by appointment and cost up to $140 for a tour and tasting, including food and library vintages. Sales are primarily through a membership program, with the current release of the Lost Mountain 2021 selling for $225 a bottle to members. Rendezvous currently sells for $110. The winery has about 2,000 members, de Vink said.

By focusing on one primary wine, the Lost Mountain, and making no compromises on quality, de Vink believed he could produce extraordinary wine. He used the analogy of automakers with a wide range of vehicles vs. those that specialize in one exceptional product.

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“I wanted to make a Ferrari,” he said.

The French buyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but in an interview de Vink said RdV’s focus on quality caught the eye of Graffeuille when he visited the United States last fall to scout out prospective acquisitions. Martin and Oliver Bouygyes visited RdV in February, and sale negotiations began soon thereafter.

When he launched RdV, de Vink often poured his wine alongside Château Montrose and a high-end Napa cabernet sauvignon to demonstrate that it belonged at that level. Handing his project off to the Bouygues brothers “feels like coming full circle,” he said.

De Vink, an avid mountaineer and skier, said he and his wife, Jenny Marie, will relocate somewhere in the western United States or Canada where mountains and snow are plentiful.

Aside from the new name, the joint announcement of the sale gave little indication of any major change in direction for the winery. Grainer, who has been at RdV since the beginning and earned the master of wine title in 2022, said his charge from the new owners is to improve the vineyards so that more of the wine qualifies to make the top cuvée. That will mean less Rendezvous and Friends and Family, he said.

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At Montrose, the Bouygues constructed new production facilities and purchased additional vineyards. At RdV for now, at least, the emphasis is on continuity and “ensuring quality and reverence for the vineyard’s storied past while steering it toward a promising future,” the joint statement said.



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Securing a Vibrant Future With UPMC Washington and UPMC Greene – UPMC & Pitt Health Sciences News Blog

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Securing a Vibrant Future With UPMC Washington and UPMC Greene – UPMC & Pitt Health Sciences News Blog


Welcoming UPMC Washington and UPMC Greene to UPMC represents a milestone in our promise to serve and care for all our communities.

The benefits of this affiliation are immense. It preserves local health care access, it builds upon needed life-saving services for more people and it ensures UPMC is growing for a strong future.

‘The Future Is Bright, There Is Much Good to Come’

On June 12, employees, medical staff, and community leaders joined to celebrate the becoming of UPMC Washington and UPMC Greene.

Leslie C. Davis, president and CEO of UPMC, applauded the dedicated leaders who never wavered in belief that Washington Health System would join UPMC.

“It’s been clear how deeply you care about your employees and your community,” said Davis. “Together, we will carry on that culture of caring in our next chapters as UPMC Washington and UPMC Greene.”

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Numerous media outlets shared the monumental news of the benefits that will come from our affiliation, including: Marty Griffin of KDKA Radio, KDKA-TV, Washington Observer-Reporter, Pittsburgh Business Times, WPXI-TV and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Watch a recording of the affiliation celebration press conference to hear from Davis and John Surma, chairperson, UPMC board of directors; Brook Ward, president, UPMC Washington; John Six, MD, vice president of Medical Affairs, UPMC Washington; Mayor JoJo Burgess, mayor of Washington, Pa.; and Dan Miller, chairperson, UPMC Washington board of directors.

‘We Brought Quality Health Care From the Big City to Small Town Living’

At the press conference, Mayor JoJo Burgess described a powerful, personal account of the life-changing difference of UPMC’s care (watch below).

His father nearly lost his life. He was on a ventilator at a non-UPMC hospital and needed to be urgently transferred to UPMC for a higher level of care. By the time it took Mayor Burgess to drive from Washington to Pittsburgh, his father was off the vent and sitting up in bed eating Jello.

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UPMC will always be special to me,” Mayor Burgess said. “We got the right outcome we needed for our residents. I am so happy to have UPMC Washington and UPMC Greene.”

‘This Will Uphold and Protect a Healthy Future for This Community’

From every corner of every community served by UPMC, our talented medical staff, visionary leaders and dedicated teams deliver people-focused, best-in-class health care.

  • As we integrate UPMC Washington and UPMC Greene, we will uphold three core commitments:
  • – To keep health care local and grow UPMC Washington as a health care destination for the surrounding communities.
  • – To invest in retaining and recruiting the most talented nurses, physicians, and clinical experts to deliver the very best care.
  • – To contribute impactful investments, ongoing charitable care, and community benefits to improve the health and well-being of the people and places we serve.

“Now, it’s time to move forward by honoring UPMC’s commitments,” Davis continued. “We will proceed with the same tenacity and fervor to secure a vibrant future.”  

 

 

 

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