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SIMMONS: Programs aid ineligible as residents suffer
Alarms sounded during the recent deliberations on the mayor’s fiscal 2011 budget plan.
The veritable council member Marion Barry pointed out that overspending got the city into trouble in the mid-1990s and overspending will always be a problem.
Council member Jack Evans, chairman of the Finance and Revenue Committee and the conscience of the 13-member council, laid out the cold, hard facts.
In the early 1990s, the city was $330 million in the hole. Today, it has a projected deficit of $550 million. Neither then-Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly nor the council made substantial spending cuts. Ditto the current mayor and council.
Mr. Evans pointed out that the savings fund balance stood at $1.4 billion in 2007, but the Fenty administration already has spent $1 billion of those funds.
He also said that since the control board went dormant in 2001, the city has increased its human-services spending by 78 percent.
Mr. Fenty was smart to propose an election-year budget short on handouts. The move forced his chief rival, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, to appease fellow lawmakers on the one hand and deliver to needy voters with the other.
It appears to be a win-win for Mr. Fenty. But for D.C. taxpayers, not so much.
The city cannot prove that all the “residents” it is trying to house, feed and educate actually live in the city.
D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee told lawmakers at a hearing that the residency of adults participating in free adult education programs cannot be verified.
Taxpayers complain that Marylanders are using D.C. recreation and library programs as baby sitters.
Public school student-athletes have questionable residency, too, and only the good Lord knows whether the people receiving food stamps, welfare benefits and housing subsidies are actual D.C. residents.
The D.C. budget won’t be making the rounds of Congress until June. It will be interesting to see whether lawmakers such as Reps. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia have questions regarding D.C. residency requirements.
There’s little reason to doubt the two lawmakers will have questions about the city’s commuter tax plan, which, if approved by Congress, would slice into the number of dollars brought home by their own constituents.
c Deborah Simmons can be reached at email@example.com.
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About the Author
Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...
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