Why DC Needs Local Budget Control
Unlike any other jurisdiction in the country, the District of Columbia’s budget requires affirmative Congressional action on both federal and local funds. Here are four reasons the District needs control over its own budget:
THE DISTRICT'S FISCAL YEAR IS NOT ALIGNED WITH LOCAL FUNCTIONS.
Other jurisdictions use a fiscal year that aligns with the school year, but the District’s is tied to the federal government. This forces the local government to advance funds to the school system ahead of each fiscal year.
THE DISTRICT HAS LIMITED ABILITY TO MODIFY THE BUDGET IN RESPONSE TO CITIZEN NEEDS.
The D.C. Home Rule Act contemplates mid-year supplemental funding, but that requires congressional approval, which is improbable and imposes a burden on Congress.
BUDGET PLANNING IS HAMPERED BY REVENUE ESTIMATE LAG TIME.
The District must base its budget revenue on an estimate made eight months prior to the start of the fiscal year. This lag between the estimate and budget implementation often means the budget is out of sync with local agency needs, undermining the Council’s ability to effectively allocate resources to critical priorities.
THE DISTRICT IS CAUGHT UP IN FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWNS.
When the federal government shuts down because Congress can’t agree on a spending bill, the District is required to shut down as well. During those periods, basic local functions like education, trash collection, and permitting cannot be carried out.
THERE ARE TWO PATHS TO LOCAL BUDGET CONTROL
In the current 114th Congress, DC Vote will take a more aggressive approach to gaining bi-partisan support for Local Budget Control by working with our state and local partners across the country to educate their lawmakers about the District’s unique position. When Local Budget Control succeeds, DC residents will have greater autonomy over local affairs, thus a stronger local democracy.
Self-Determination: In 2013, due to congressional inaction, the people of the District of Columbia took matters into their own hands. With unanimous support by the DC Council, DC Vote and several allies organized a grassroots campaign to amend the District of Columbia Home Rule Charter to change the relationship between the Congress and the District of Columbia government with regard to the local budget. More than 82 percent of voters approved a change in the charter to remove the District's local tax dollars from federal appropriations, reduce the congressional review timeline and modify the fiscal year to align with evey other jurisdiction in the country. It was a clear sign to Congress, that they need to act and a major victory for DC Equality.
Congressional Action: DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced H.R. 552, which would allow the District to spend its locally-raised tax dollars without congressional approval and to modify the fiscal year. Local budget control would improve government efficiency while retaining congressional oversight required by law.
- Fact Sheet: Why the District of Columbia Needs Local Budget Control
- HR 552: The District of Columbia Budget Autonomy Act of 2015
- Take Action: Contact Congress