Credit: Andrew Giambrone

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For the second time in less than a month, White House staffers are telling members of Congress not to kill D.C.’s vibe.

On Tuesday, the executive branch’s Office of Management and Budget released another statement of administration policy blasting the Republican-controlled legislature for including a few measures within an annual appropriations act that would restrict the District from using local funds as it fully wishes. As introduced, the federal bill repeals the 2013 referendum where residents overwhelmingly voted for budget autonomy, under which Congress only gets to passively approve the D.C. government’s yearly budget rather than treat it like any other federal agency as it does currently. The act also contains language collectively known as “riders” that prohibit D.C. from using even local tax dollars to regulate marijuana—a result of a 2014 amendment by Maryland Rep. Andy Harris—and to provide women access to abortion.

“The residents of the District and their elected leaders deserve to have the same ability as other U.S. residents and elected leaders to determine how to use their local revenues,” the SAP explains. “Such authority is fundamental to a well-functioning democracy and the denial of such authority is an affront to the residents and leaders of the District. The Administration urges the Congress to adopt provisions included in the [fiscal year] 2017 Budget request that would permanently allow the District to use local funds without congressional action.”

Among other reasons, such as underfunding the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Trade Commission through the appropriations act, the SAP states that OMB “strongly objects to the inclusion of problematic ideological provisions that are beyond the scope of funding legislation.” If it were to come before President Barack Obama as is, “his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill.”

One of the bill’s provisions limits federal dollars from going toward D.C. syringe services, which isn’t the case in other jurisdictions. Another fails to provide D.C. Public Schools with a fourth of the money requested in the District’s budget.

“Once again, the White House has in strong terms opposed all undemocratic interferences into D.C.’s local affairs by unaccountable Members of Congress, and we are grateful,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said in a statement. “I particularly want to make Republican own up to the anti-home-rule riders they have planted in the bill when it comes to the House floor,” which is expected today.

The SAP concerns the full “Financial Services and Government Appropriations Act” of 2017, but you can read the part that’s germane to D.C.—courtesy of Norton’s office—below:

District of Columbia (D.C.)

D.C. Local Budget Autonomy.  The Administration does not object to the one-year shutdown exemption in section 816 of the bill, which would allow D.C. to spend local funds in the event of a lapse in appropriations in FY 2018.  However, the Administration strongly objects to section 817 of the bill, which repeals the D.C. Local Budget Autonomy Act of 2012.  The residents of the District and their elected leaders deserve to have the same ability as other U.S. residents and elected leaders to determine how to use their local revenues.  Such authority is fundamental to a well-functioning democracy and the denial of such authority is an affront to the residents and leaders of the District.  The Administration urges the Congress to adopt provisions included in the FY 2017 Budget request that would permanently allow the District to use local funds without congressional action.

Restrictions on the District’s Use of Local Funds.  The Administration strongly opposes language in the bill that bars the elected leaders of the District of Columbia from determining how to use local revenues.  Specifically, the Administration strongly opposes section 810 of the bill, which prohibits the District from using both Federal and local funds for abortion services for low-income women.  Longstanding policy prohibits Federal funds from being used for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered, but restrictions on the District’s use of local funds for abortion services is contrary to the principle of home rule.  In addition, the Administration strongly opposes the restriction in section 809(b) of the bill on the use of both Federal and local funds for regulatory or legislative activity pertaining to recreational use of marijuana, which was approved by D.C. voters.  The Administration urges the Congress to adopt the provisions in the FY 2017 Budget request that limit the abortion and recreational marijuana restrictions to Federal funds. 

D.C. Syringe Services Program. The Administration strongly opposes the restriction in the bill on the use of Federal funds for the District’s syringe services program.  This is contrary to current law, which prohibits the use of Federal funds for syringe services programs only in locations where local authorities determine such programs to be inappropriate.

D.C. Education Funding.  The Administration strongly opposes the $20 million funding level in the bill for the Tuition Assistance Grant Program (TAG), which is $20 million below the FY 2017 Budget request level.  TAG provides grants of up to $10,000 per year to District residents to cover the difference between in-State and out-of-State tuition at public colleges and universities and helps to make college affordable for many low-income District residents.  In addition, the Administration opposes the $30 million funding level in the bill for D.C. public schools, which is $10 million below the FY 2017 Budget request, and the Administration strongly opposes the additional $12 million the bill provides for the Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), a private school voucher program.  The Administration appreciates the bill’s support for evaluation and administration of OSP and will continue to use available OSP funds to support students returning to the program until they complete school, but strongly opposes additional funding for more vouchers.  The Administration remains focused on improving the quality of public schools for all children rather than supporting a handful of students in private schools.

D.C. Water and Sewer Authority.  The Administration opposes the bill’s lack of funding for D.C. Water and urges the Congress to provide the $14 million included in the FY 2017 Budget request for ongoing work on the combined sewer overflow project.