A federal spending bill set to be approved by Congress today would spare D.C. from any government shutdowns through 2015.
The provision in the 1,500-page-long bill would allow D.C. to spend locally raised funds throughout the 2015 fiscal year, allowing it to continue operating even if the federal government shuts down as it did in October. Though the majority of D.C.'s budget comes from local funds, it still has to be approved by Congress, leaving city agencies at risk of shutting down if spending bills are derailed by partisan fighting.
During the October shutdown, D.C. was forced to tap an emergency fund to keep agencies open. After the shutdown, Congress authorized D.C. to spend local funds through the remainder of the 2014 fiscal year, which ends on September 30, 2014.
The new provision is being cheered by D.C. officials, who say that it is the first time that Congress will have exempted D.C. from any shutdowns for an entire fiscal year.
“Between the provisions... our city can rest assured that our local government will not shutdown through fiscal year 2015 if the Congress becomes as dysfunctional as it did last year,” said D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton in a statement.
The exemption is yet another move towards decoupling the city's budget from congressional spending debates, a movement known locally as "budget autonomy."
In April 2013, D.C. residents overwhelmingly voted to amend the city's charter to offer officials more flexibility in spending local funds. The referendum's legality remains unsettled, though, and the Government Accountability Office is finalizing an opinion on whether the vote was permissible.
In a statement, Mayor Vincent Gray celebrated the news of the budget provision.
“Although this legislation falls short of full budget autonomy, it would still be a major victory for the District and a huge step toward the day when our 647,000 residents are allowed to spend our own money without congressional approval,” he said.