Washington, D.C. voters will cast their ballots on a proposed amendment to D.C.’s home rule charter that would give the D.C. Council direct control over the city’s budget April 23.

Currently, the District’s yearly budgets must be approved by Congress during the federal budget process, and supporters say that the passage of the referendum would be a significant step forward in the city’s quest for greater autonomy.

“Along with D.C. residents, I share the D.C. Council’s frustration at sending the city’s local budget to a Congress that has no part in raising the city’s local revenue,” Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), the District’s non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives, said in a press statement. “The denial of budget autonomy not only violates a basic tenant of self-government, it also imposes substantial operational and financial costs on the city,”

But the council’s push for increased autonomy could incite backlash in Congress, according to Norton.

“After being informed of the proposed charter amendment and investigating it, we briefed the mayor and council chairman on the legal and institutional issues and risks of a referendum that would allow the city to give itself budget autonomy,” Norton said in the statement. “In light of these issues and increasing Republican and Democratic support for budget autonomy, we will continue to work with our allies in the House and Senate to pass a budget autonomy bill.”

The referendum’s announcement comes just weeks after then-Senators Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) introduced a bill to the now-adjourned 112th Congress that would have granted D.C. statehood. Norton introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives. The bills, however, were largely symbolic and were wiped from the Congressional docket when the 112th Congress ended on Jan. 3.

Although both bills put before the 112th Congress failed to pass, the upcoming referendum is the latest phase of a grassroots movement for D.C. home rule and eventual statehood that originated almost 40 years ago.

“I do support statehood for D.C. strongly,” Ron Lewis, chairman of Advisory Neighborhood Commission2E, which encompasses Georgetown, told The Hoya. “I think it’s time we have a say at the national level because we are U.S. citizens, we pay our taxes the same as anyone else, we serve our country the same as anyone else and we deserve representation as much as anyone else.”

As to how enhanced D.C. autonomy would affect the university, Associate Vice President for Federal Relations Scott Fleming said that the passage of the referendum and other proposed measures would be heralded as positive developments.

“With regard to the question of both budget autonomy and voting representation for D.C. in Congress, in both instances, the university is well-served if those changes can become law,” he said.  “Just like other citizens of the District of Columbia, we rely on the District government for a variety of services, [such as] police protection. The current situation, which requires the federal government — the Congress of the United States — to have to sign off on budgetary decisions by the government of the District of Columbia involving funds from taxpayers here, poses periodic risks for those services to be disrupted because of this cumbersome process.”

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*