- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 6, 2002

Mayor Anthony A. Williams urged the House Appropriations District of Columbia subcommittee yesterday to pass the District's spending plan and told members that the city should have authority over its own budget.
Mr. Williams testified that the $5.6 billion spending plan the first since the end of the federally appointed D.C. financial control board is balanced and that the District has rebounded from the financial crisis of several years ago.
He said the priorities in the spending plan include improving public schools, investing in neighborhood services, providing a safety net for the city's most vulnerable residents and restoring the Anacostia River and the neighborhoods along its banks.
The mayor also said the city no longer suffers from rampant overspending by most of its agencies.
He said agencies administering special-education and Medicare programs will be accountable for $50 million in annual savings within two years.
The mayor also urged Congress to pass the Fiscal Integrity Act of 2002, which would give the District autonomy over its budget process.
The legislation would allow the city's chief financial officer to maintain independent financial control over essential financial functions that now require federal approval.
The act would also remove local tax revenues from the federal appropriations process, streamlining a budget-development process that Mr. Williams said takes nine months.
Under current law, Congress and the president must approve the D.C. budget.
The measure would also allow the budget to become effective upon approval from the D.C. Council and the mayor. The federal government would approve the federally funded portion of the D.C. budget.
Mr. Williams said the federal government imposes several barriers to the District's financial recovery.
It pays no property tax on the buildings it occupies, which cover 42 percent of the city's taxable area, and imposes height restrictions on buildings, limiting the city's tax base.
The federal government also requires the city to provide police and other locally funded services for federal events.
Furthermore, the mayor said, the District is not allowed to tax the income of commuters.
Mr. Williams also urged the panel to approve federal funding for several projects, including a dispatch and coordination center for police and emergency services, and a forensic laboratory.

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