- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 8, 2003

Good news for D.C. taxpayers. President Bush's fiscal 2004 budget earmarks $15 million for public safety and $32 million for the family court program, and it supports new legislation that would grant the District budget autonomy.
Of course, there are other D.C. goodies in the Bush budget proposal, including funding for the popular D.C. college-assistance program, which gives tuition aid to D.C. students who attend out-of-state public colleges, money to support school-choice programs and funding for the first-time homebuyers program. All of those programs are worthy and important.
But support for D.C. budget autonomy is historic. It would, beginning with fiscal 2005, end congressional approval of the District local budget the spending plan for locally raised funds that is devised by the mayor and the D.C. Council. "The city should have the ability to to spend its own funds as it sees fit," Rep. Tom Davis, Northern Virginia Republican and chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, said Monday.
The legislation, which Mr. Davis is cosponsoring with D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, does not grant carte blanche autonomy to D.C. officials, however; it cannot. In fact, the proposal requires the D.C. budget to be in the hands of federal lawmakers at least 30 days before the end of the fiscal year, which is Sept. 30. As Mr. Davis said, "Congress has a constitutional responsibility to make sure the District does not return to the days when it faced a fiscal crisis of Shakespearean proportions. So, should a control board be reinstated, this budget autonomy would be rescinded."
And well it should. "The District of Columbia is insolvent" is what the House Government Reform Committee concluded in 1995, because one Democrat-controlled Congress after another refused to hold local officials accountable for years of mismanagement. The D.C. government got its financial house in order during the so-called control years, which started in the mid-1990s under the direction of former Federal Reserve vice chairman Andrew Brimmer. The earliest benefits of Mr. Brimmer's and city officials' hard work were clean audits and balanced budgets, which enabled city officials to win back respect from Wall Street, and now the White House and Congress. "The District's leaders and residents have earned the right to this freedom and this accountability," Mr. Davis said.
Indeed, while we certainly don't always agree with their policies, we certainly do support D.C. officials having the authority to propose spending local dollars on practically any program their liberal hearts desire as long, of course, as Congress has the final say.

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