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D.C. Government To Remain Open During Federal Shutdown

The federal government might shut down, but the D.C. government will be open.
Larry Miller: http://www.flickr.com/photos/drmillerlg/1246397248/
The federal government might shut down, but the D.C. government will be open.

While the federal government could shut down at midnight tonight, D.C. government employees, offices and services won't follow suit.

"The District government will be open tomorrow," says Pedro Ribeiro, Mayor Vince Gray's spokesman.

City officials now say that D.C. will be spared a shutdown by paying its 32,000 employees out of a $144 million contingency reserve fund, allowing the government to stay open for at least two weeks even if Congress doesn't come to an agreement on a federal spending plan.

Because D.C.'s budget is tied to the congressional appropriations process, any possible shutdown has the effect of resonating locally. That left city officials with the unwelcome task of preparing for a shutdown that would affect libraries, recreation centers, some trash pickups, and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Last week, though, Mayor Vince Gray announced in a letter to the Office of Management and Budget that all of the city's employees were "essential" and would remain on the job during a federal shutdown.

But even if OMB nixes that plan, D.C. will be able to remain open by using cash it has on hand instead of funds that have to be appropriated by Congress. Both the city's attorney general and chief financial officer, who were initially skeptical of defying Congress and keeping the government open, have signed off on the plan. The city's biweekly payroll amounts to $96 million.

Earlier this year Gray and members of the D.C. Council fought over the fate of a $417 million budget surplus, with Gray getting his way and the money being set aside for the city's contingency reserve and traditional reserves, which now have close to $1.5 billion in various accounts.

Tomorrow the Council will vote on a bill backing Gray's decision to pay employees out of the city's contingency reserve.

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