- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 15, 2002

The chairmen of the House and Senate D.C. appropriations committees have given Mayor Anthony Williams and Council Chairman Linda Cropp a deadline: By tomorrow, explain how the city's leaders plan to reduce the $325 million shortfall in the fiscal 2003 budget. City leaders must meet that deadline and close the gap without raising taxes.
D.C. officials attribute the shortfall to overspending and a significant drop in tax revenues. They are considering across-the-board spending cuts and proposals to generate revenue. The tax-increase menu already laid out by Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi includes raising personal and business taxes, as well as sales, alcohol, property and tobacco taxes. He also has proposed increases in parking penalties. None of those scenarios is plausible, because the problem is spending.
To that end, Mr. Gandhi also has proposed cuts in administrative expenditures, including personnel. That is the only way to go. Indeed, the District is in this predictable predicament because officials proposed unnecessary spending and refused to put agencies on a diet. Moreover, this situation occurred last year and the year before, primarily because of unchecked spending on schools and health and social-service programs. So, to know yet again that D.C. leaders have an unbalanced budget sitting on Capitol Hill is troublesome.
The situation, however, is salvageable if officials do a couple of things. For starters, the mayor and the council must not raise taxes or use other gimmicks, such as reinstituting parking-ticket quotas, to increase revenues. They then must do the obvious: Put every agency except those related to public safety on the strictest of spending diets and hold them accountable.
Those are tough but necessary calls. Anything short of them would prove insignificant.

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