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No tax break owed Greater SE
(Published July 2, 2001)

It is ludicrous that the District of Columbia Council is even seriously entertaining an application for a 20-year property tax abatement from Greater Southeast Community Hospital.

Traditionally, such property tax exemptions have been granted to profit-making businesses by governments across the country in exchange for a tangible benefit that accrues to taxpayers through a planned capital improvement.

Often, a tax abatement is a carrot that helps attract businesses to locate in a city — or persuades them to stay and expand in a town when others try to lure them away.

Greater Southeast Community Hospital has presented no such plan along with its request to be relieved of paying property taxes — estimated by Chief Financial Officer Natwar Ghandi at $2.3 million during the next five years. Hospital officials have simply pledged to invest $100 million in capital improvements over 20 years but presented no detailed plans for doing so.

What’s more, hospital officials had the audacity to inquire about an unprecedented sales tax exemption as well during a June 28 council hearing on their application for the property tax abatement.

Is there some inherent threat to which the taxpayers have not been made privy?

Need we remind the council that this is the company that has just been handed one of this city’s most valuable assets? Our public health-care system.

Perhaps the council doesn’t pay attention to its own hearings. Taxpayers already have been told they were lied to when they were initially told that their public health-care system, with D.C. General Hospital at its core, was too expensive to continue operating. Now that it has become clear that privatization of that system will cost taxpayers much more, officials say the issue isn’t cost.

On June 22, the D.C. Department of Health’s Theodore Gordon testified at a council hearing that the privatization contract gives Greater Southeast officials carte blanche to select and use without charge more than 3,000 pieces of taxpayer-owned equipment that was used by D.C. General and its clinics.

Where will the giveaway of the public’s assets end?

How much more must taxpayers give up before the financial control board, the mayor, the council and our forever-ignorant Congress wake up and realize the extent to which D.C. taxpayers are being taken to the cleaners by a company that we have just been assured is financially healthy enough to take on the task of meeting the health-care needs of possibly as many as 85,000 poor and uninsured city residents?

Taxpayers are owed the truth from their government — whether appointed or elected.

If officials intend to prop up Greater Southeast Community Hospital with a continuous flow of taxpayer assets, the public deserves to see the corporate books.


Copyright © 2001 The Common Denominator