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D.C. Budget Autonomy Comes Closer To Reality

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An effort by District of Columbia residents to give the city government more control over its municipal budget is about to reach a milestone.

In April voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the District's Home Rule Charter that would allow city leaders to spend local tax revenue without approval by Congress.

The review period during which Congress could pass a resolution invalidating the budget autonomy referendum is expected to end this week. No such resolution has been introduced.

After the review period is over, the referendum's language will be added to the charter, though it doesn't take effect until next year—and there are still ways it could be overturned.

Last week a House committee approved a spending bill that cast doubt on the referendum's legality. “The Committee considers the recent referendum in the District as an expression of the opinion of the residents, only, and without any authority to change or alter the existing relationship between Federal appropriations and the District,” it said.

Kimberly Perry, executive director of DC Vote, one of the groups that pushed the referendum, says the group is "celebrating, but cautiously.''

A large part of the District's budget comes from locally raised tax dollars, though the federal government pays for the courts and certain education programs.

“The Committee considers the recent referendum in the District as an expression of the opinion of the residents, only, and without any authority to change or alter the existing relationship between Federal appropriations and the District,” she says.

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