|President Keeps MLK Day Promise to Norton on Budget Autonomy|
WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said that the President’s fiscal year 2013 budget, released today, keeps a promise he personally made to her on January 16 to work to help pass a District of Columbia budget autonomy bill, when the President and Mrs. Obama invited Norton to the President’s box at the Kennedy Center for the Martin Luther King, Jr. concert. The President’s budget says, “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.”
In a conversation before the concert, Norton told the President about Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) budget autonomy proposal, which mirrors most of the Congresswoman’s own budget autonomy bill, and asked the President to go beyond his previously stated support for budget autonomy, which was included in last year’s budget. For this year, Norton asked the President to indicate in his budget that he would assist congressional efforts to enact budget autonomy in light of the Issa bill. Chairman Issa said in November that he will continue working until budget autonomy “becomes law,” but he did not move his bill in November, at the request of top city officials, because of a provision permanently barring the city from spending its local funds on abortion services for low-income women, and the certainty that several other anti-home-rule riders would also be attached.
In additional important statutory language taken from a pending Norton bill, the District of Columbia Local Funds Continuation Act (H.R. 980), the President’s budget for the first time includes language to amend the Home Rule Act to permit the District to spend its own local funds in any year in which no appropriations bill authorizing D.C. to spend its local funds passes by the start of the fiscal year and the federal government shuts down, thereby removing the threat of future D.C. government shutdowns over unrelated federal spending fights.
Norton also told the President that earlier that evening she had spoken about Issa’s budget autonomy proposal with the President’s newly appointed chief of staff, Jacob Lew, who was also invited to the President’s box. Norton will be working closely with Lew to carry out the President’s support.
Text of the President’s amendment to the Home Rule Act to permanently prevent shutdowns of the D.C. government because of federal shutdowns: “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.”
Text of the President’s pledge to work with Congress to pass a budget autonomy bill: “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.”
Published February 13, 2012