- The Washington Times - Friday, June 13, 2003

Congress might wait until later this summer to begin looking into the proliferation of six-figure salaries in the District government, a key Republican leader said yesterday.

“We have a pretty full plate right now, particularly with school choice,” said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, which has oversight on many District affairs.

“We are not looking at [salaries] right now. We may [later this summer], but I don’t want to put a timetable on it,” he said.

The Washington Times first reported in April on the proliferation of high salaries in the D.C. government.

The District has more employees receiving $100,000-plus salaries than Chicago, a city with nearly 3 million residents, and Baltimore, a city similar in size to the District, with 651,000 residents. The District has 572,000 residents.

Of the District’s 34,000 city employees, 575 make more than $100,000 a year. In comparison, 419 of Chicago’s 40,000 city workers and 33 of Baltimore’s 15,000 city workers earn that much.

Last month, Mr. Davis, Virginia Republican, and other lawmakers said they would look into the salary issue.

Since then, it has been on a back burner as lawmakers review whether to allow District parents to use vouchers to send their children to private schools, Mr. Davis said.

Mr. Davis made his comments yesterday after a hearing in which District leaders asked his committee for budget autonomy.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, has sponsored legislation that would allow D.C. officials to pass their own budget without dealing with delays at the congressional level.

If enacted, the District of Columbia Budget Autonomy Act would amend the Home Rule Act of 1978 to allow the District to bypass the appropriations process and enact its local budget Oct. 1, the start of the fiscal year.

“This doesn’t take any authority away from Congress,” Mr. Davis said, explaining that if Congress is late with its budget, the District could use its autonomous budget to “go and hire teachers,”

The change would apply only to the District’s locally raised funds, which make up the majority of the budget.

However, Congress would still have to enact a D.C. appropriations bill to finance certain social services programs, including criminal justice, defender services and tuition assistance programs.

D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp said the change is necessary because when Congress delays actions on the budget, the District pays.

“There have been times when we have had to borrow money when Congress has not acted on time,” Mrs. Cropp said.

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