If the federal government shuts down, so too would the D.C. government.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray today declared that the city's 32,000 employees were all "essential" and should be allowed to remain on the job during a possible federal government shutdown that could start next week.
In a letter to the Office of Management and Budget director Sylvia Burwell, Gray wrote: "I have determined that all operations of the District of Columbia are 'excepted' activities essential to the protection of public safety, health, and property and therefore will continue to be performed during a lapse in appropriations."
The letter comes a day after members of the D.C. Council were updated on local preparations for a federal government shutdown. If the shutdown does occur, the D.C. government would also have to close, spare certain "essential" employees such as police, firefighters and teachers.
Council members responded angrily to the news of a possible shutdown, declaring that D.C. should defy Congress and remain open. With today's letter, Gray took a step towards that.
The Office of Management and Budget will decide whether all of the city's 32,000 employees are "essential" or not, and can accept, deny or amend Gray's request. In preparations for a shutdown in 2011, D.C. stated that some 21,000 employees were "essential" and should remain on the job.
But even if Gray is overruled, a source tells WAMU's Patrick Madden that he won't back down, potentially testing how far the federal government would go in enforcing a law that forbids agencies from spending money that has not been specifically appropriated.
In a statement, Gray expressed indignation that a federal shutdown could affect the D.C. government.
“It is ridiculous that a city of 632,000 people—a city where we have balanced our budget for 18 consecutive years and have a rainy-day fund of well over a billion dollars—cannot spend its residents’ own local tax dollars to provide them the services they’ve paid for without Congressional approval. Congress can’t even get its own fiscal house in order; they should be taking lessons from us rather than imposing needless suffering on us. I will not allow the safety and well-being of District residents to be compromised by Congress’s dysfunction," he said.
D.C. officials have long pushed to decouple the city's $6 billion local budget from the federal budget process. In April D.C. voters approved a measure that would give city officials more control over local revenues, though it would not go into effect until January.
9-25-13 Gray Ltr to OMB Re 2013 Shutdown