- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 7, 2002

"Right now,'' Mayor Tony Williams said in his State of the District address Tuesday, "we are operating one emergency away from financial crisis. And, if we are not vigilant, we could find ourselves right back where we were just six short years ago. You know, when I started as CFO, our problems were mostly a blend of management (lack of it), revenue collection (lack of it), and the unbalanced federal relationship. But we changed much of that. There is still room for improvement, believe me, I know. But our biggest challenge now is a structural one… . Because of our unique status, there is a $400 million annual gap between the revenue we can expect and the levels of services that we all want for our nation's capital… . I know Congress wants to help. So contact your senators and educate them about oh wait, you don't have a senator. And, if we are going to ask the federal government to step up, we need to do the same."

Touche. Indeed, a steady spending diet and vigilant oversight are the only things that will ensure the city does not return to "where we were just six short ago," with a $454 million deficit, no cash, residents and businesses fleeing, and Wall Street thumbing its nose. Important, however, was the mayor's admission that his administration must "step up" to the realities, too. Unfortunately, it seems the mayor wants to reward bad management with more money.

Congress cannot be expected to bail the city out of an expected $180 million deficit this year a deficit caused not by an "unbalanced federal relationship," but by unchecked entitlement spending and other pressures at nine agencies, including human services, schools and corrections. The D.C. Council will hold a special legislative session today to air the extent of the overspending and seek possible solutions. "We will have two or three agencies that will not have a balanced budget, leading to bigger problems next year," Council Chairman Linda Cropp told this newspaper's Brian DeBose. "We have seen that special education is a major problem with the schools, but I don't think it is the whole problem."

While the mayor rightly pointed out that the city is much better off but has a ways to go, he surely knew that Tuesday would have been the ideal time for him to acknowledge his opposition to income tax cuts and the way to protect his bureaucrats. There will be other opportunities during this pivotal election year for the mayor to get it right.


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