Referendum approach to D.C. budget autonomy hailed

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Mr. Gray said he has misgivings over the council-driven referendum to fast-track the city’s efforts on budget autonomy. A legal opinion that outlines those concerns has not been released, and no one from his administration testified at Friday’s hearing.

The mayor’s spokesman, Pedro Ribeiro, said Friday they plan to submit comments on the bill for the record.

D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi, who was unable to appear in person, submitted testimony Friday in support of the bill because the city has improved its financial management and deserves flexibility in how it spends its own dollars.

The council’s lawyer, V. David Zvenyach, testified the measure is legally sound for consideration because it allows the District to use its funds when federal lawmakers take no action, yet Congress will retain its ultimate authority over the District.

The city’s budget “would be submitted (to Congress) like any other bill,” Mr. Mendelson said, referring to a 30-day congressional review period of any bills from the District.

Walter Smith, executive director of D.C. Appleseed and a primary backer of the proposal, also argued there is nothing in the law that prohibits the District from altering the way it appropriates local dollars.

“We need to find a way to move forward,” he said.

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