Finance

D.C. Budget Autonomy Bill Advances

A key House committee has approved a bill that would grant a measure of budget autonomy to the District, the latest step in the city’s long-running effort to win the ability to spend its own money freely.
July 25, 2013

A key House committee has approved a bill that would grant a measure of budget autonomy to the District, the latest step in the city’s long-running effort to win the ability to spend its own money freely.

The bill, introduced Tuesday night by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), would amend the D.C. Home Rule Act to let the District spend its own taxpayer funds at the start of the fiscal year without congressional approval if Congress has not yet passed a spending bill approving the city’s budget. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which Issa chairs, approved the bill Wednesday after just a few minutes of discussion.

The legislation would also let the city set its own fiscal calendar -- the District, like the federal government, currently starts its fiscal year Oct. 1, but states typically begin their fiscal year July 1 to make it easier to plan school budgets. And the measure would allow D.C. to boost pay for its Chief Financial Officer, as the city is in the midst of searching for a replacement to retiring CFO Natwar M. Gandhi.

Issa has long said he supported the cause of granting spending freedom to the District. But he shelved an autonomy bill in 2011 at the request of city leaders because it also would have made permanent a ban on D.C. using its own money to fund abortions for low-income women. And a similar measure was scuttled in the Senate last year because of Republican efforts to attach language changing city laws governing abortions, guns and unions.

It’s not clear if or when Issa’s latest bill will reach the House floor, or whether supporters of budget autonomy would be able to fend off amendments on unrelated subjects.

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