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OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF THE MAYOR
Subcommittee on the District of Columbia
States House of Representatives
The Honorable Rodney P. Frelinghuysen, Chairman
Honorable Chaka Fattah, Ranking Member
Year 2004 Budget and Financial Plan
Public Safety, and Opportunity for All"
Wednesday, June 4, 2003
Thank you Chairman Frelinghuysen, Ranking Minority Member Fattah, and
members of the subcommittee for this opportunity to testify on the
District's FY 2004 budget and financial plan. This subcommittee has been
a partner in our city's renaissance over the last few years. As Mayor, I
am grateful for the support and encouragement offered by the previous
chair and the ranking minority member, and I am particularly pleased to
have become acquainted with Representative Frelinghuysen since he became
chair in January. The enthusiasm and energy he has brought to this
assignment is gratifying. In just a few short months, he has traversed
this city and immersed himself in understanding the special challenges
we face. The citizens of our national capital can rest assured that the
city's relationship with this subcommittee continues to be strong and
will serve us well as we strive together to address the pressing needs
of the District.
Specifically, this session of Congress could be pivotal in the evolution
of the federalDistrict relationship:
- fiscal challenges posed by the serious structural imbalance are becoming
more acute, and there a number of proposals to help address the issue;
the disruption of service delivery caused by problems with the
Congressional approval process can hopefully come to an erid through
- the education of our children can be enhanced through new partnerships
between the District and federal governments; and
important infrastructure projects are at critical junctures at which
they require additional federal support. These include the Combined
Sewer Overflow system, the Unified Communications Center, and the
With all these advances hopefully in our grasp, it is indeed a time of
great opportunities and great challenges. As you know, cities and states
across the nation are facing the worst budgetary challenge of the last
60 pears, and the District is no exception. Due to the national economic
downturn, the District experienced a decline in revenues of
approximately $370 million in the first half of FY 2003. This decline
equates to a 10% loss in our local operating budget. Because the economy
has not yet recovered, these challenges continued into FY 2004, and the
District began formulation of that budget with a projected gap of $114
In facing these challenges, however, the District not only continued its
record of sound fiscal management, we achieved a level of responsible
and conservative budgeting found only among the most financially prudent
governments. As a result, the FY 2004 budget transmitted today is
balanced in the current and future years. More notably, the District's
leaders balanced this budget entirely through budget reductions. No tax increases were adopted, and not one dollar of the
$250 million in cash reserves was used.
Just as significant is the fact that this budget protects core services.
In times of tight resources, some would set their goals aside in order
to weather the storm, but I believe the opposite must be done: in these
difficult times we must focus on our goals more than ever so that we may
protect them and continue making forward progress.
The proposed FY 2004 budget reflects this approach by focusing resources
in the areas of highest priorities for our residents. These are (1)
education programs, including early childhood education, school choice,
and adult literacy; (2) public safety, which includes providing greater
police presence in neighborhoods and a vastly improved 911 emergency
communications system; and (3) opportunity for all, which includes the
housing, job-readiness, and health care needed for all residents to
become productive and healthy members of the community and economy.
In order to protect these priorities, however, some reductions had to be
made in other areas of the budget.
Sacrifices Made to Preserve Budgetary Balance
In many instances the District was able to reduce spending by using
existing funds more wisely. In many other areas, however, significant
sacrifices were required. Most notable among these is the deferral of
key infrastructure investments. In FY 2003 the District eliminated
funding for $250 million in approved capital construction, including
transportation investments, recreation facilities, and important
technology investments. An additional $87 million of funding for such
projects was eliminated in FY 2004.
In making these sacrifices the District preserved existing funding for
existing schools and libraries, but could allocate no new funding for
the next phase of modernization. As a result, current 10-year plans for
renovating neglected schools and libraries must be scaled back
dramatically, leaving a major challenge for the education of our
children. This sacrifice, coupled with even greater reductions in roads,
bridges, and other buildings, present one of the greatest challenges
that the District faces today and, if not addressed, into the
Is this challenge purely the result of our national economic woes? In
fact, it is not. Even during times of economic growth, the District's
can not support the level of investment required to compensate for the
many decades of neglect from which our infrastructure has suffered. This
is true not because of any factor under the District's control, however,
but because of the uniquely unfair constraints placed on the District's
tax base by the federal government.
Federal Constraints on Revenue Collection Resulting in Structural
The federal government requires that the District provide services like
a state, but unlike every other state in the nation, the District is
prohibited by the Congress from collecting a nonresident income tax. As
a result, the District must fund expenditures far greater than the
revenues provided through a reasonable level of taxation. Faced with
this clash between expenditure needs and revenue capacity, the District
has maintained a balanced budget through several strategies that have
provided solvency in the short term, but cannot be maintained. These
- Producing service improvements within existing constraints.
The District has aggressively improved service delivery through more
focused use of existing resources. Having capitalized on the major
opportunities for such efficiencies, however, the District cannot expect
to solve its structural imbalance through this strategy.
- Taxing local residents and businesses at high levels.
With a severely limited tax base, the District has had no choice but to
rely on local residents and businesses to provide revenues for
government services, resulting in many tax rates that far exceed those
of surrounding jurisdictions. This translates into additional hurdles to
attracting and retaining residents and businesses that could help
stabilize our fragile economic base.
- Deferring spending on critical infrastructure and services.
At present, the District is deferring each year hundreds of millions of
dollars in critical investments. These include funding for school
buildings, transportation systems, water and sewer projects, economic
development, and social services.
Although these strategies have temporarily addressed the imbalance
between expenditures and revenues, they cannot be employed much longer.
The overtaxing of our citizens and deferral of critical investments
continues to damage the viability of the District as a place to live and
operate a business. As a result, the financial and operational recovery
underway will falter and the District will lose the important ground
that it and its federal partners have worked to gain.
In specific terms, the amount of the structural imbalance is more than
$400 million per year. This estimate has been thoroughly analyzed and
documented by the Rivhn Commission, the Brookings Institute, and
McKinsey and Co. To independently assess this matter, the members of
Congress have requested that the U.S. General Accounting Office conduct
a fullscale analysis. Upon release of this study, the District remains
very hopeful that this Congress will remove the federal barriers that prevent the District or otherwise help the city maintain
the ability to invest in critical service improvements and maintain a
In addition to this matter of finances, the District also faces a
procedural barrier in the federal appropriations process.
Disruptions Resulting from Federal Review of the District's Budget
Unlike any other state or local jurisdiction in the nation, the District
must have its locally-raised revenues appropriated to it through an act
of Congress. Aside from the obvious issues related to government by
consent of the governed, this process creates major disruptions in the
delivery and improvement of basic government services. Specifically,
there are several key reasons why the President and Congress should
change the current process:
- The current system denies the District the capacity to adapt quickly
to changing needs for front line services.
The federal government requires the District to formulate its budget a
year in advance in order to accommodate the federal review process.
- Congressional delays disrupt critical new improvements.
Virtually every year, Congress fails to approve the District's budget by
the beginning of the fiscal year, most recently more than three months
- Mid year budget reallocations require an act of Congress, and disrupt
As discussed, local governments need the flexibility to respond to rapid changes in their needs.
- The city must "use or lose" funding at the end of each year.
Congressional approval for spending expires at the end of the year,
which punishes program managers who save funds by not allowing the city
to carry them over for one-time uses.
Last January, the President's statement in favor of budget autonomy for
the District was transmitted to the Congress, and is greatly appreciated
by the District. At present, the House and Senate oversight committees
on the District of Columbia are developing legislation that would begin
the process of reforming the federal approval process for the District's
budget: Of course, the process for federal funds for the city and
relevant oversight would be unchanged. As Congress pursues passage of
this legislation, the District looks to you for leadership in affecting
this change that will remove the impediments to the District's continued
financial and operational recovery.
Critical Federal Financial Support
In addition to the process points I have discussed, there are several
specific financial proposals in the FY 2004 budget before this
committee. Last year, Congress allocated $50 million for the Combined
Sewer Overflow project, which was matched with local funds. This was a
very welcome down payment on a bilIion-dollar-plus multiyear project.
Updating our antiquated sewer system, which was built originally by the
federal government, is an integral part of our Anacostia Waterfront
Initiative. Therefore we are seeking an additional $50 million in FY
2004. The President's budget includes $15 million for this purpose and
another $10 million for the Anacostia Bike Trail. I strongly urge the
subcommittee to accept the President's proposal, and add $35 million to
the sewer project to match last year's commitment.
The President has also included $15 million for the Public Safety Event
Fund, which reimburses the city for various security costs of
demonstrations and other events related to our status as the nation's
capital. This fund helps shift the unfair burden of covering these costs
from District taxpayers and allows the District to better balance our
duties to protect residential neighborhoods and the nation's capital. I
strongly urge the subcommittee to provide these important resources.
In addition, thanks to the generosity of this subcommittee, the Tuition
Assistance Grant Program has provided thousands of District residents
with tremendously expanded options for post-secondary education. Indeed,
many of these people might not have otherwise attended college. In FY
2003, the program will use all its allotted funding and will require an
additional $17 million in FY 2004.
In FY `03 Congress provided $4 million for a family literacy program.
Since receiving this payment just three months ago, we have an ambitious
program underway that will soon have at least 20 Literacy Leaders
dispatched around the city to help community-based providers, government
agencies, and the faith-based community expand the network of adult
learners. We will also have a training symposium this summer begin to
"train the trainers". My goal is to reverse the city's destiny
in this area by transforming ourselves from a city with a shockingly
high rate of adult literacy challenges to a city where the right to read
is sacred. Adults will have a harder time fulfilling opportunities for
health care, employment, and stable family life as long as they lack
basic reading skills. It is time that the stigma associated with adult
learning challenges be eradicated and all of Washington make this a
priority. With an additional $4 million in FY `04 the subcommittee can
sustain our efforts.
And finally, before I conclude this testimony there are several specific
points that must be made clear for the record. First, I ask that the
District's appropriation be passed without the undemocratic
"riders" that are sometimes included. These non-budgetary
provisions subvert the will of District citizens and their only elected
representatives. If the elected leadership of the city has decided to
use local funds for various purposes, we ask only for you to grant us the same prerogatives
and liberties that cities in your own districts enjoy.
Second, because quality education for our children is a critical
priority for the city, I strongly urge the Congress to appropriate additional funding
above whatever this subcommittee
it allocated for other District projects
to support our public schools and expand opportunities for parents to consider nonpublic educational settings.
The District of Columbia Public School system is making headway in
reform, including the very promising Transformation initiative for 15
low-performing schools. It also has a liberal out-of-boundary program
that affords parents opportunities to consider public schools across the
city. Our robust charter school system is a national model for public
school choice whose expansion is limited largely by a lack of adequate
facilities. In addition, dozens of private and parochial schools are
assets for our children. Consequently, I want to reiterate my support
for school choice - both within the public system and between public and
private schools. Additional support from the federal government will
greatly enhance the quality of options available to all children.
In addition, I would also like to note for the committee that the city
continues to be vigilant in its emergency preparedness responsibilities
and is expeditiously drawing down on federal funds provided for this
purpose. We are making great progress working with surrounding
jurisdictions and federal agencies in developing effective regional
responses. Similarly, working with local hospitals, our capacities in
the areas of preventing and responding to bioterrorism are greatly
expanded. Through partnership with the federal government, the District
is rapidly becoming one of the best prepared jurisdictions in the
And finally, no discussion of District-federal partnership is complete
without a discussion of voting representation in Congress. The District
is the capital of the world's greatest democracy, and it is the ultimate
hypocrisy that its citizens suffer from the exact disenfranchisement
this nation was founded to end. Like all of us in this hearing room, I
was filled with great pride and gratitude watching the young men and
women of our armed forces help bring democracy closer to the people of
Iraq. At the same time, however, I was struck with the irony that those
among them who hail from our great city do not enjoy full democracy
Again, Chairman Frelinghuysen and members of the committee, I thank you
for your support of the District and I thank you for this opportunity to
testify before you today. After the testimony of Chairman Cropp and Dr.
Gandhi, I will gladly answer any questions you may have.