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District of Columbia Budget Autonomy Act of 2003
with Rep. Tom Davis and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton press releases, 2004 Presidential budget section
February 3, 2003




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DC Budget Autonomy Act of 2003 2004 Presidential Budget, Section on DC
Rep. Tom Davis press release Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton press release

District of Columbia Budget Autonomy Act of 2003


"District of Columbia Budget Autonomy Act of 2003."


(a) IN GENERAL. - Re-writes section 446 of the Home Rule Act (the section that describes how the District's budget gets enacted), but does little substantively to existing law other than making the distinction between budgets submitted during a control year and those submitted in a non-control year.

(b) LENGTH OF CONGRESSIONAL REVIEW PERIOD FOR BUDGET ACTS. - Updates section 602(c) of the Home Rule Act (the section that describes the congressional review process for local legislation) to read that, for budget related matters that fall under section 446, the 30-calendaF day period of congressional review is to include Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, and time that Congress is not in session (this is different than other legislation, which is subject to a 30 legislative-day congressional review period). This 30-calendar-day congressional review period for the budget only applies during non-control years. NOTE: If the District were to submit its local budget to Congress on May 15, the 30calendar-day congressional review would expire 30 days later, approximately June 15. However the budget would not take effect until the first day of the fiscal year. Congress would have to pass a joint resolution of disapproval between May 15 and June 15 in order to reject the budget. Otherwise, Congress can make changes to the local budget by inserting language into the federal appropriations bill. 

(c) CONFORMING AMENDMENTS. - Makes technical corrections to the Home Rule Act, the Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Act and the National Capital Revitalization and Self-Government Improvement Act to reflect the changes made to section 446 of the Home Rule Act.


(a) IN GENERAL. - Updates section 404(f) of the Home Rule Act (the section that explains how the council can override mayoral vetoes, and for other purposes), to reflect that budgets will no longer be submitted by the President to the Congress (except during control years). 

(b) CONFORMING AMENDMENT. - Makes technical changes to section 404(f) of the Home Rule Act to reflect the changes made in the previous subsection.

SEC. 4. PERMITTING EMPLOYEES TO BE HIRED IF POSITION AUTHORIZED BY ACT OF THE COUNCIL. Updates section 447 of the Home Rule Act (the section that iterates that no employee can be hired without appropriate funding approved in the budget) to reflect that budgets will no longer be approved by Congress.


(a) FEDERAL AUTHORITY OVER BUDGET-MAKING PROCESS. - Updates section 603(a) of the Home Rule Act (the section says that nothing in Home Rule changes the DC-federal relationship) to clarify that this legislation does change the local-federal relationship as it pertains to federal approval of the local budget.

(b) RESTRICTIONS APPLICABLE DURING CONTROL YEARS. - Re-writes section 603(d) (it basically combines existing 603(d) and 603(f)) of the Home Rule Act to say that, during a control year, the Council may not approve, and the Mayor may not submit, a budget that is inconsistent with the financial plan and budget established by the Control Board.

(c) DEFINITION. - Inserts the definition of "control year" into the Home Rule Act.

SEC. 6. EFFECTIVE DATE. This legislation will take effect October 1, 2004, meaning that the FY05 budget would not require congressional approval.

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The Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget
2004 Proposed Budget
Released February 2, 2003

District of Columbia

The President’s Budget provides $58 million, including new federal support to help improve the Anacostia River for the District of Columbia’s (D.C.'s) neighborhoods and visitors. The 2004 Budget proposes $10 million to create an Anacostia riverwalk along the water’s edge, from Hains Point to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, and an additional $15 million toward priority projects undertaken by the local water and sewer authority to reduce combined sewer overflows into the Anacostia River.

The budget also supports “budget autonomy” for D.C. This proposal would allow D.C.’s local budget to go into effect without prior congressional approval, provided that any general provisions from the previous year stay in effect until the Congress acts and provided that the Congress retains the right to redirect by law portions of the local budget after it goes into effect. This proposal reflects the dramatic improvement in the District’s ability to manage its budget processes in the post-Control Board era.

The budget continues to support D.C.’s public safety response to events directly related to the federal government’s presence in the District, with $15 million. The budget also continues to support the D.C. Resident Tuition Assistance program, with $17 million. This program was started in 1999 and primarily allows District residents to attend public colleges nationwide at in-state tuition rates.

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For Immediate Release
February 3, 2003
Contact: David Marin/Scott Kopple
(202) 225-5074


Washington, D.C. - House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis (RVA-11 t') and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today announced introduction of the District of Columbia Budget Autonomy Act of 2003, historic legislation that does away with the centuries-old requirement that Congress must approve the District's budget.

The legislation states that, beginning with FY05, D.C. will no longer need congressional approval of its local budget. Instead, the local budget will come up to Congress for a one-month review. Thus, as long as the District gets its local budget up to Congress by September 1, it should never get a late start on enacting their fiscal budget.

"The District's leaders and residents have earned the right to this freedom and this accountability," Davis said, noting the city certified its sixth consecutive balanced budget last week. "The city should have the ability to spend its own finds as it sees fit. With this legislation, we renew our commitment to both the financial viability and financial responsibility of the Nation's Capital. And this frees the local budget from the whims of Congress. Of course, Congress has a Constitutional responsibility to make sure the District does not return to the days when it faced a fiscal crisis of Shakespearean proportions. So, should a control board be reinstated, this budget autonomy would be rescinded."

The federal government will still be responsible for enacting an annual DC appropriations bill to fund criminal justice and defender services functions, courts and tuition assistance.


  • Borrowing money from Treasury;
  • Failure to provide sufficient funds to a debt service reserve fund;
  • Default on loans, bonds, notes;
  • Failure to meet payroll;
  • Existence of a cash deficit at the end of any quarter of a fiscal year;
  • Failure to make pension payments; and
  • Failure to make payment to any entity under an interstate compact.


3/30/1995: House Government Reform Committee report declares the following: "The District of Columbia is insolvent: The City does not have enough cash to pay all of its bills. It is spending at a rate in fiscal year 1995 that would exceed its mandated expenditure limits by more than $600 million, nearly 20 percent above its congressional appropriation. 

4/17/1995: DC Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Act is signed into law.
2/14/2001: District certifies its 4h consecutive balanced budget (FY96-FY00).
9/30/2001: Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority lapses.
2/3/2003: After DC certifies its 6t' consecutive balanced budget, legislation introduced to remove District's local budget from congressional approval.

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District of Columbia

For Immediate Release
February 3, 2003
Contact: Doxie A. McCoy
(202) 225-8050, (202)225-8143-cell
Web Site: http://www.norton.house.gov 


Washington, DC-Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), in a press conference with Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), today announced that she and Davis were introducing a bill to bring "functional budget autonomy" to the District. The bill would allow the city's budget to become law on time at the start of the fiscal year regardless of the status of other appropriations. "Next to full independence through statehood and voting rights," Norton said, "no goal is more important to the city." The Congresswoman's full statement follows.


The bill Tom Davis and I are cosponsoring today would bring the District functional budget autonomy. Next to full independence through statehood and voting rights, no goal is more important to the city.
The most significant feature of the bill is the elimination of the requirement that the D.C. budget be enacted by Congress. Instead, the budget could come to Congress for a layover period of thirty calendar (not legislative) days so long as the District submits its budget by September 1. Thus, our bill would guarantee that the D.C. budget would always go into effect at the start of the fiscal year on October 1.

The bill has important ramifications for the District. First, during the 13 years of my service in the Congress, the D.C. budget has rarely been enacted by Congress on time. Often, it has emerged only after major floor fights and, in any case, unconscionably late, although the city has always submitted its budget in plenty of time for timely passage. This bill would allow the District's budget to go into effect on October 1, regardless of the stage that other appropriations have reached in the congressional process.

Second, the D.C. budget would not have to go to the floor of Congress. I have long argued that budget autonomy would benefit the city financially and operationally without withdrawing congressional jurisdiction. (Only statehood would completely eliminate congressional power over the budget, but that option is not available at this time because the Mayor and City Council turned over the costs for its most expensive state functions to the federal government in 1997.) Allowing our local budget to go into effect on time benefits the District and the Congress alike. For the city, a timely budget would eliminate the uncertainty of the congressional process that in turn reduces the city's bond rating, adds millions of dollars in unnecessary interest for local taxpayers to pick up, and weakens the District's fragile tax base. A timely budget would increase the District's ability to make all-important, accurate revenue forecasts. A timely budget would reduce the countless operational problems, large and small, that result when the city cannot proceed on budget on time. 

Among the many examples of the handicaps the congressional appropriation process imposes, I will cite one that is typical, using this year's budget, which emerged five months late. Despite significant cuts in most functions, the city increased the budget of the D.C. Public Schools (DCSP). Nevertheless, DCPS was forced to spend at last year's levels under the CR without the benefit of its urgently needed increase. Here are some of the worst examples of the severe operational problems that resulted: textbooks returned to publishers under contract provisions; reduction in number of busses under the bus lease contract, creating longer rides for disabled children; tuition payments for special education students not paid; cancellation of school supplies. 

The benefits for the Congress also are significant. The D.C. budget typically has-had to come to the floor repeatedly before it passes, often because of attachments. There are wholesale complaints from Members about the time and effort spent on the smallest appropriation. No budget autonomy bill can eliminate the possibility of attachments because there are countless ways to attach riders, but our bill reduces their likelihood and no longer allows the city's local budget to be held hostage. 

I have not found members of Congress of either party to be seriously interested in the city's core budget. In good times and in bad, the House and Senate almost always pass the budget itself as is. Congress has neither the background nor the apparent interest in budget changes within the city's complicated, core budget. 

This bill is an especially appropriate first bill for Representative Davis and me to cosponsor as Tom becomes chair of the Government Reform Committee. Tom cannot overcome all opposition to District issues on his side, but I believe that this bill is an indication of what we can seek to accomplish by working together in the bipartisan fashion that he and I have developed over the years.

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