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The Introduction of the District of Columbia Local Funds Continuation Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. NORTON. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to offer the District of Columbia Local Funds Continuation Act, to permanently protect both the more than 600,000 residents of the District of Columbia and the federal government from an unintended catastrophe in any future federal government shutdown. The bill would allow the District government to spend its local funds at the start of a fiscal year if Congress has not approved the District's local budget by such time, thereby avoiding a District government shutdown if the federal government shuts down. Although the District government raises and manages an $8 billion local budget, Congress technically appropriates these local funds back to the District government, a holdover and throwback to the pre-home-rule period. Several years ago, Republican appropriators and I reached a bipartisan agreement to approve the District government's local budget in continuing resolutions (CRs), allowing the District government to spend at next year's level, if the District government's regular appropriations bill has not been signed into law by the start of a fiscal year. We are grateful that this agreement has held through Democratic and Republican congresses and administrations. This agreement has enabled District officials to operate complex, big-city functions more effectively than during the many years when the city's local budget was only approved by Congress months after the start of a fiscal year.

However, last Congress, we saw the limits of even this helpful agreement when the federal government almost shut down on multiple occasions. While Congress appears poised to pass legislation to keep the federal government open for the remainder of fiscal year 2013 by acting before the expiration on March 27 of the CR that is keeping the federal government (and therefore the District government) open, the D.C. government should never have to wonder whether it will be shut down. If the District government shuts down, it could default under certain financing agreements and leases. When Congress cannot reach agreement on regular appropriations bills, it often operates under successive CRs to avoid a federal government shutdown. However, successive CRs greatly hinder the operations of the District government. Not only do they make it difficult for the city to plan its activities for the year, successive CRs greatly increase the city's costs of doing business. The city's partners, from Wall Street to small vendors, may charge it a risk premium due to the uncertainty created by successive CRs.

Disputes over the federal budget have nothing to do with the District government's local funds. I do not believe that any member of Congress wants to shut down the D.C. government and bring a large, complicated city to its knees due to a purely federal matter. Moreover, D.C. residents are not alone in relying on vital District government services. Federal officials, including the President, federal buildings, foreign embassies and dignitaries, and businesses rely daily on the city's services, as well.

A bipartisan consensus on preventing D.C. government shutdowns emerged last Congress. President Obama included a provision in his fiscal year 2013 budget that would permanently authorize D.C. to spend its local funds if the federal government shut down. The Senate Appropriations Committee-approved fiscal year 2013 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill included the shutdown-avoidance provision. Although the House bill did not include the provision, the Republican-led committee's report accompanying the bill acknowledged that the District government would face considerable hardships if it had to shut down due to a federal government shutdown, and encouraged the passage of legislation to avoid D.C. government shutdowns.

We continue to work to pass a budget autonomy bill, which would free the District government's local budget from congressional approval, and is, of course, the best long-term solution. There is also increasing bipartisan support for budget autonomy. President Obama has indicated his support for budget autonomy, as have House Majority Leader ERIC CANTOR, Representative DARRELL ISSA, Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has jurisdiction over D.C., Senator SUSAN COLLINS and Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.

It is time we remove the District government and the multiple, unintended consequences of a District government shutdown from federal government shutdown fights. I urge my colleagues to support the bill.


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