Issa Supports Giving DC More Freedom Over Funds
||Associated Press News Service (AP)
||Thursday, May 12, 2011
WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the House committee that oversees the District of Columbia said Thursday that he's open to giving district leaders more freedom to spend their local tax dollars, a prospect that pleased D.C. officials who have been advocating for years for greater budget autonomy.
Congress must approve the district's budget. That means services for the 600,000 residents of the nation's capital hang in the balance anytime funding for the federal government is at risk of running out.
U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said at a subcommittee hearing Thursday that he was not prepared to grant full budget autonomy to the district, but he said he wanted to streamline the approval process so the district's local funds aren't tied to the federal budget debate.
Issa told D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray after the hearing that he did not want district leaders to have to worry about slowdowns on Capitol Hill affecting city services. He told reporters he planned to work with Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., to introduce a bill that would allow the district to spend its local funds months earlier than when the federal budget is approved.
"I think there's a justification to let the district do what a city does," Issa said. "A city plans its own budget, uses its own funds and typically goes to a state capital hoping to get more."
It's unusual for the Oversight and Government Reform committee to call district leaders in to discuss their budget, and some advocates for D.C. autonomy said they feared Thursday's hearing of a subcommittee that oversees the city would be another example of congressional meddling in local affairs. In calling the hearing, the panel had raised the specter of reviving a congressional control board to oversee the district's finances, angering some D.C. leaders.
But that subject never came up at Thursday's hearing, where the atmosphere was mostly collegial. Gray said afterward that he was encouraged by Issa's proposal.
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