D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray sent letters to President Obama and congressional leaders today in which he demanded a meeting. The city, Gray says, is on the verge of a crisis due to the government shutdown.
In his letter, Gray reiterated what district denizens and Beltway politicians all know: "[F]ederal law prevents us from spending our own local tax dollars to provide services for which our residents have already paid." A release on the mayor's website notes that "a shutdown of this length without permitting the District to use its own funds is unprecedented."
During the most recent previous federal government shutdown, which lasted 21 days from December 16, 1995 to January 6, 1996, Congress and then-President Bill Clinton agreed to allow the District to spend its own money to resume local operations and services after five days. The current shutdown is now eight days old, but the District has not yet been granted the ability to spend its own local funds for local services taken for granted in other states and cities. This is revealing unforeseen problems that are unique to the District.
Mayor Gray noted that, for the first week of the federal shutdown, the District has been able to draw on reserve funds to pay its expenses – but that those funds will soon be depleted. Meanwhile, the District is already prohibited from spending federal pass-through funds. This endangers a host of functions in the District that other states and municipalities are able to perform – such as payments to Medicaid providers or grants that are keeping the District’s new statewide health-benefits exchange running – imposing a special burden on the District during a federal shutdown that no other state or city must bear.
Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post reports that Gray has good reason to be anxious. "The letter comes as the District’s 'Plan B' strategy of spending down a special reserve fund approaches an end. The fund is unlikely to support city government functions much beyond Oct. 15, when $98 million in employee paychecks are due."
House Republicans introduced legislation last week to reinstate funding for veterans services, national parks, and Washington, D.C. city government. According to NBC, "Democrats remained mostly united against the funding bills, which they argued amounted to the GOP's 'cherry-picking' of politically palatable federal spending while ignoring the problems of the larger government funding lapse.
Top image: Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, center. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)