Alice Rivlin and Tom Davis Throw Support Behind DC Budget Autonomy Referendum
Rivlin: congressional control over DC funds anachronism
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November 9, 2012
Today, major players in the fight for DC democracy each supported DC Vote's bold new effort to win budget freedom for the District of Columbia.
The Local Budget Autonomy Referendum Act (B19-993) provides for a voter referendum to amend the Home Rule Act and give DC greater budget autonomy. Under the bill, once the DC Council and the Mayor approve
the spending of the city's local revenues in its local budget, the city would no longer have to wait indefinitely for Congress to pass affirmative legislation approving the budget.
During a November 9, DC Council Committee of the Whole hearing on the bill, Former Congressman Tom Davis, a long-time Republican champion for DC Voting Rights highlighted strong bi-partisan support for DC budget autonomy. "This just brings to justice something everybody already says they are for," David said.
Economist Alice Rivlin, who chaired DC's now-dormant financial control board and served as the first OMB director, called Congressional control of DC's budget "an anachronism that must be ended."
Untangling the District's budget from the federal appropriations process is an idea whose time has come. The city has produced a balanced budget each of the last 11 years, building up cash reserves and dramatically improving its credit rating. Meanwhile, federal and state officials struggle with putting their finances in order.
The lack of budget autonomy imposes significant costs upon the city. Every time the Federal Government threatens a shutdown, the District government is forced to spend city funds preparing for a potential city shutdown. The routine months-long delays in Congress approving DC's local budget cost the city millions in extra interest charges and undermine sound fiscal planning.
If the bill is enacted, the referendum to amend the Home Rule Act will likely take place during a special election to fill the At-Large Council seat vacated by the election of Phil Mendelson to the Chairman's post. The special election is expected to occur in the spring.