- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 26, 2002

The District is in financial trouble, and Mayor Williams should be laying concrete plans to bail the city out. Instead, what's in store for taxpayers in fiscal 2003 are continued outrageous spending practices based on laws and policies crafted by liberal social attitudes.
The problem is profound in the District's health and human services agencies, where compassion and political correctness push common sense aside regarding substance abuse, prostitution and moral decency. The two agencies historically have overspent their approved budgets. This year, for example, the Department of Health overspent its budget by $13 million, and human services overspent by another $13 million.
While some of that overspending was anticipated because of court orders, the problem points to D.C. taxpayers paying for expanded outpatient and residential drug-treatment programs, expanded programs for prostitutes and insurance in order to comply with domestic-partnership laws. Implementing the just-approved voter Initiative 62, which would further expand drug-treatment programs and force the health department to considerably expand its bureaucracy, will create new financial burdens.
As things now stand, Mayor Williams and the D.C. Council have proposed an $11 million increase in drug-treatment funding for FY 2003, from $24 million to $35 million. Also, policymakers propose expanding needle-exchange programs, and using HIV/AIDS funds for sensitivity workshops and sharpening the "condom negotiation skills" of "commercial sex workers."
Fortunately, Congress has not yet approved the city's 2003 spending plan, which means spending must remain at FY '02 levels. But D.C. officials are nonetheless positioned to resume their old spending and rhetorical habits. The mayor and council want taxpayers and Congress to believe they have changed. But have they?
Last month, after learning of a $323 million deficit, they sent a balanced budget that trims some new spending. However, much of that plan is based on new fees and taxes. Also, that was before the latest health care crisis at Greater Southeast Community Hospital, which handles indigent care and has serious cash-flow problems.
Of course, these are not new problems for the District. "Right now, 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." That was the mayor talking back in March. He was prophetic. "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." A Republican White House and Republican-controlled Congress will not simply turn on the money spigots.
Mr. Williams, the CFO, had a much better handle on finances than Mr. Williams, the mayor.


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