Budget autonomy plaintiff Phil Mendelson
Budget autonomy plaintiff Phil Mendelson

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson has scheduled a new Council meeting to vote again on the budget. That’s despite uncertainty about how the District will handle what could be its first budget passed without congressional approval.

“The victory we received last week at the Court of Appeals was not as broad as some people think,” Mendelson told councilmembers at the Council’s Tuesday breakfast meeting.

The Council will vote again on the budget on June 10, as part of its attempt to treat the budget like any other bill the Council passes. Previously, the Council has passed budgets with a single vote, then sent them on for federal approval.

Thanks to Muriel Bowser changing the mayoral position on the 2013 autonomy referendum and a subsequent overturned court ruling, though, the legal battle over budget autonomy is starting all over again.

Mendelson said he’s been meeting with the mayor’s office and Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey DeWitt to figure out a way to enact a budget while the budget legal case itself works its way through Superior Court. Councilmembers are scheduled to meet next week with their lawyers to discuss strategy in the case.

“Even though I don’t particularly like this phrase, we’re back to square one,” Mendelson said. 

That’s exactly what a spokesman for DeWitt, who along with Attorney General Karl Racine still thinks the referendum lacks legal force, said last week when the appeals court sent the case back to Superior Court. If the District continues to operate under the referendum and not send the budget for federal approval, according to Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, the Office of Management and Budget could decide that the District never really passed a budget when it would go into effect this October.

“OMB could call over and say, ‘We never got your budget, what’s up?” Evans said.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery