- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 13, 2007

The D.C. government stands in pretty good fiscal shape — at least for now. Wall Street, where City Hall visited last week, considers the city a worthy investment despite the billions of dollars in capital spending that are underway and on the drawing board for the next several years. That’s good news. But in the District, there’s always good cause for concern, too.

The chief culprits? Mayor Adrian Fenty’s 2008 spending plan and a foolish proposal by liberal lawmaker Jim Graham to wrestle for control of the region’s water and sewer authority. The mayor’s plan calls for tax increases and scrapping plans approved last year to bolster public safety with scores of new police officers. Specifically, the mayor wants to reshuffle an estimated $7 million designated for 52 new officers and instead spend the money on overtime pay for police and personnel and procurement programs. Mr. Fenty also wants to more than double the levy on 911 calls (currently 66 cents on cell phones and 76 on landlines) to $1.55. In addition, the mayor wants to repeal a 2005 property-tax cut. All this is from a Democrat who vowed during last year’s mayoral contest that he would not raise taxes, and, as mayor, promises that he would stand for law and order.

Moreover, as Robert Kabel, chairman of the D.C. Republican Committee, points out on today’s Op-Ed page, the Fenty spending plan “could be in the red by $30 million or more. How do we nearly double a $3.4 billion budget in seven years and still need more money?”

Indeed, some lawmakers raised concerns about the budget gap shortly after the mayor submitted his plan. The city’s chief financial officer, Natwar Gandhi, however, tried to reassure them that plan is inked in black, not red. But the facts that the Fenty administration wants to juggle the books and Mr. Graham wants to bring the independent D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) under the thumb of the mayor and the council are seemingly proving otherwise.

Virginia WASA officials are duly concerned because the authority, which used to be controlled solely by D.C., has rid itself of the financial, personnel and regulatory scandals that led Congress to make it an independent authority in the mid-1990s. WASA is neither broke nor broken, so what are liberals trying to fix?

The city is flush with tax revenues, reserves and money from the federal tobacco settlement. We applaud Mr. Gandhi for his substantial role in helping the city recapture and retain financial integrity. However, we remind the CFO and everyone else in City Hall that outright fiscal chicanery, lawlessness and misplaced priorities (with the schools especially) led D.C. to financial ruin. Controlled spending is what the city needs now. Does Congress need to send City Hall a reminder?

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