- 17 октября 2013, 07:38
- POLITICO. TOP 10 Blogs
Washington D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray thanked congressional leaders and President Barack Obama for passing a provision freeing his city's budget from being caught up in federal politics -- for another year, at least.
The compromise legislation that cleared Congress on Wednesday contained a provision allowing the city to spend its own local funds for at least another year.
"I offer thanks to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate DC Oversight Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), Senate DC Oversight Committee Member Mary Landrieu (D-La.), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), and President Obama for recognizing the District's unique plight and that it is completely unjust for the District to be barred from spending our own local revenues during a federal shutdown," Gray said in a late Wednesday statement.
Because of the city's unique status as a federal enclave, the city's budget -- even local sales and property taxes -- must be approved and appropriated through Congress.
The city weathered the shutdown -- barely -- by tapping a special emergency reserve fund and declaring every single District government employee essential. But with the fund running dangerously low, city leaders clashed repeatedly with fellow Democrats over D.C.'s unique plight. City agencies warned that if the shutdown dragged on much longer, they would have to cut city services like sanitation, education and safety programs.
Gray confronted Reid publicly at the Capitol last week, asking him to accept a GOP proposal that would have temporarily freed the city to spend its own tax dollars during the shutdown. The White House threatened a veto and Reid refused to move the bill -- resisting Republican efforts to reopen the government piecemeal.
With the cameras rolling, Reid told Gray: "I'm on your side. Don't screw it up."
The city's nonvoting congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton pressed the city's case to Obama in a closed door meeting at the White House. Attendees described the confrontation between the two officials as "tense."
With the passage of legislation to reopen the government, the District's budget won't be caught up in another shutdown during fiscal year 2014. The city will be allowed to spend its own tax revenue in a shutdown, under a bipartisan agreement.
D.C. voters also approved a separate budget autonomy ballot initiative in 2012 that is set to take effect in 2014 -- but a key congressional committee expressed doubts that it was a legal referendum earlier this year.