Today, Congressman José E. Serrano, Ranking Member on the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the District of Columbia budget said that he "supports the DC Council's proposed referendum to give DC local budget autonomy." As Chairman of the House Appropriations Financial Services Subcommittee from 2007 to 2011, Congressman Serrano freed the District of many noxious riders, and even inserted language that would have given the District budget autonomy in his last bill as chairman. That push was caught up in election year politics and did not survive to become law.
"I have continually said that the District of Columbia must be allowed to spend its own local tax dollars in the ways that it sees fit without meddling from Congress. The heart of that statement is the belief that the people they elect should make decisions for them and not Members of Congress from other places. No other place in the nation has its local budget dictated by Congress.
"By moving to conduct a referendum and amend their charter, the Council will be working within the powers it has been given by the Home Rule Act. Through this process, we will see the direct expression of the DC people's desire for more direct control over their own affairs. This is democracy at its very core. The process that they have laid out is transparent and fair, and should be respected by Congress once it has taken place.
"As the referendum process moves forward, I also hope Congress continues to move towards granting budget autonomy and a vote in Congress to the District. I do not think that the expression of the popular will through a legitimate process should hinder those efforts. We cannot hide the inability of Congress to move forward behind procedural questions--especially questions that would never be raised if citizens of another jurisdiction in our nation were to take a referendum about their local affairs.
"It is long past time for the citizens of the District of Columbia to have full local control and a vote in their national government. I applaud the City Council for taking this bold step forward and look forward to supporting their efforts going forward."