(WASHINGTON, DC) – Mayor Vincent C. Gray told members of Congress today that if they want to save government dollars, they could start by giving the District of Columbia budget autonomy. In testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on the District of Columbia, Mayor Gray and DC Council Chairman Kwame Brown as well as Chief Financial Officer Dr. Natwar Gandhi and former Control Board Chairperson Dr. Alice Rivlin said the District had proven its commitment to fiscal responsibility over the last 14 years and deserved budget autonomy.
The Mayor was encouraged to hear the Republican leadership’s recognition that the District has practiced sound financial management and that Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and other committee leaders are willing to work with District leaders to secure greater budget autonomy for the District.
“Mr. Chairman, the District of Columbia raises over $5.5 billion per year in local funds from our residents in property taxes, sales taxes and income taxes,” said Mayor Gray. “A majority of the functions of the District government, including all the services provided by any other state, are funded through these locally raised dollars. Nevertheless, it is the lengthy and complicated federal appropriations process that has severe effects on the District government.”
Mayor Gray said allowing the District autonomy over its own budget would save tax dollars in a number of ways, including providing less of a time gap between budget creation and approval; allowing for more accurate revenue and expenditure estimates; changing the District’s fiscal year from one coinciding with the federal government’s to one more appropriate for a government that provides municipal and state-level services; and preventing uncertainty about District operations when political disputes threaten a shutdown of the federal government.
The Mayor looks forward to working with Chairman Issa, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and the rest of Congress to craft a bill that will allow the District to utilize its locally raised funds in the way it wants.
He also thanked Congresswoman Norton for her tireless advocacy in Congress for District autonomy and home rule.
“Much of the credit goes to Congresswoman Norton’s herculean efforts to convince House Republicans that the District is a well-managed jurisdiction and should be treated as such,” Mayor Gray said.
The Mayor’s testimony is attached. It is also available at: http://oversight.house.gov/images/stories/Testimony/5-12-11_Mayor_Gray_DC_Budget_Testimony.pdf.