D.C. leaders get set for battle over extra $190 million

|
Local,DC,Alan Blinder,D.C. Council,Vincent Gray

As the federal government moved Friday to slash spending by $85 billion, D.C. leaders quietly contemplated how to use an enormous windfall.

Armed with a forecast showing D.C. will take in $190 million more in the 2013 fiscal year than initially expected, Mayor Vincent Gray and lawmakers are preparing to stake claims to how the city should use the nine-figure sum.

In his State of the District Address last month, Gray painted broad strokes for his plans, including $100 million for affordable housing and pay hikes for the city's more than 30,000 employees.

"The mayor made his priorities very clear," said Gray spokesman Pedro Ribeiro, who also noted the administration is "looking at lots of other things."

But lawmakers, with their individual passions and constituencies, are also pitching their own ideas as Gray readies his supplemental budget proposal.

"I'd like a $30 million allotment for technology for our charter schools and our traditional public schools," said at-large Councilman David Catania. "Technology budgets don't fit neatly into traditional government budgeting, but it's critical to the evolution of education and the improvement of education."

And Ward 7 Councilwoman Yvette Alexander wants Gray to devote cash to deploying professional lobbyists to Capitol Hill to press the District's case for statehood.

"Look at how it works at the [John A.] Wilson Building," Alexander said. "You've got a gazillion activists that come in, and then when the lobbyists come in who represent the interests of the people, that's what gets the deals done."

News of the extra cash came weeks after the District announced a $417 million surplus, all of which Gray, citing D.C. law, put into the city's savings account.

Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry said he wouldn't support adding any of the $190 million to the city's emergency fund.

"I'm not going to put one cent of money in the reserve," Barry said. "I want to use every dime on people." For Barry, that includes additional low-income housing programs and job-training programs.

While lawmakers and the administration may be offering competing visions, both sides said they hope to avoid a repeat of 2012's budget battle, which included a stream of personal criticisms.

"We need to implore the chairman to lead the way and look at the efforts that are good for the entire city and not our pet projects," Alexander said. "We don't need to agree on anything unless it advances the entire city."

Ribeiro said Gray was "always willing to work with our partners on the council."

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

View article comments Leave a comment