Making Cents of Budget Season

Budget season is officially underway! 

While the budget process can seem daunting and overwhelming if you are not already plugged in or work as a full-time advocate, it’s a real window to shape policy. Budgets are a jurisdiction’s statement of priorities. They reflect the choices of county or city leaders. Oftentimes that means expanding certain programs at the expense of others, or delaying one project to advance another. Those choices are hard, requiring elected officials to balance the wants and needs of various and sometimes competing constituencies. 

Sometimes our elected officials get this balance right, but sometimes they need a reminder that something is or should be a priority.

And that’s where budget advocacy comes in. While there is a short “public comment period” typically between March-May, County Executives and Mayors start planning the next year’s budget months in advance. Community members or groups can weigh in through letter writing or by calling or meeting with your elected official. While budget advocacy may be more subtle and more nuanced than election advocacy, we have seen real results! In 2021:

  • Budget advocacy secured a record investment by DC in trails. Funding for trail projects outlined in the 6-year capital investment program (CIP) increased from $10.8M to a whopping $113.1M.
  • Advocacy in Arlington County resulted in the addition of an engineering study at Glebe Road into the County’s CIP, laying the groundwork for the future Arlington Boulevard Trail. Advocates also successfully pushed for more DDOT staff dedicated to active transportation. As a result, DDOT’s active transportation team is doubling in size and thus doubling their capacity to deliver more bike lanes and trails. 

All of these wins were secured in the brief window of time between budget proposals in February and budget approvals in June. Our leaders are primed to listen – more often than not, they care about the same things we do. It’s then up to advocates to stand up and speak up.
Your voice matters and we encourage you to make your priorities known this year. Check out our Budget Resources page with helpful resources, upcoming dates, and options to provide testimony. New to testifying? We’re happy to help. Contact us at!