The budget proposal that President Obama released earlier today is the first in a series of executive and congressional actions that will fund the government in the next fiscal year. Among the thousands of pages of tables and spreadsheets are two items of note to DC democracy advocates.
The District of Columbia annually receives direct Federal payments for a number of local programs in recognition of the District’s unique status as the seat of the Federal Government. These General and Special Payments are separate from and in addition to the District’s local budget, which is funded through local revenues. Consistent with the principle of home rule, it is the Administration’s view that the District’s local budget should be authorized to take effect without a separate annual Federal appropriations bill. The Administration will work with Congress and the Mayor to pass legislation to amend the D.C. Home Rule Act to provide the District with local budget autonomy.
SEC. 817. Section 446 of the Home Rule Act (D.C. Official Code sec. 1–204.46) is amended by adding the following at the end of its fourth sentence, before the period ": Provided, That, notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, effective for fiscal year 2013, and for each succeeding fiscal year, during a period in which there is an absence of a federal appropriations act authorizing the expenditure of District of Columbia local funds, the District of Columbia may obligate and expend local funds for programs and activities at the rate set forth in the Budget Request Act adopted by the Council, or a reprogramming adopted pursuant to this section." (Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2012.)
In the absence of voting rights, budget autonomy is an important step toward enfranchising our nation’s capital. DC should have control over its local revenues without having to clear that spending through Congress, and those local revenues should not be held hostage in the event of a government shutdown.
As the President himself points out, the Administration must work with Congress and the Mayor to ensure that these statements move from words to actions.
Click here for more information from DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.