Today Mayor Vincent Gray thanked members of the United States Congress and President Barack Obama for including a provision in the deal to reopen the federal government that will allow the District to spend its own locally raised funds throughout the 2014 fiscal year.
“I offer thanks to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate D.C. Oversight Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), Senate D.C. Oversight Committee Member Mary Landrieu (D-La.), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), and President Obama for recognizing the District’s unique plight and that it is completely unjust for the District to be barred from spending our own local revenues during a federal shutdown,” Mayor Gray said. “Most importantly, I want to offer my deepest gratitude to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, our tireless and fearless advocate for the people of the District of Columbia in Congress. We are fortunate to have her fighting for us every day,” Gray said.
The District was barred from spending its own locally raised funds during the government shutdown. Gray led an effort to convince Congress and Obama to allow the District to use its own funds. President Bill Clinton agreed to allow the District to spend its own money five days into the December 16, 1995 to January 6, 1996. However, the October 1, 2013, government shutdown continued for 16 days with the District being unable to spend its own money for local operations.
Gray went to Capitol Hill during the height of the government shutdown and asked for the District to be allowed to spend its own money. While the city has been able to draw on reserve funds to pay its basic operating expenses and meet city payrolls since the shutdown began at the commencement of the fiscal year October 1, those funds were in danger of being completely exhausted if the shutdown went on much longer. Meanwhile, the District also was unable to spend federal pass-through funds for FY 2014. This endangered a host of functions that other states and municipalities remained able to perform, such as payments to Medicaid providers and grants that keep the District’s new statewide health-benefits exchange running.
“The health, safety, and welfare of 632,000 District residents should never be a bargaining chip in a debate over the federal budget. I’m relieved and thankful that we will not have to worry for the rest of the fiscal year about becoming collateral damage if, God forbid, the federal government is again forced to shut down.” Gray said. “As Congress has now recognized, the District is not a federal agency, and our residents, visitors and businesses should not be forced to endure extreme hardships no other city or state in our nation has to face as a result of these standoffs. We are the only place in the country where shutdowns of the federal government threaten basic city services and where Medicaid providers, public charter schools, and our regional transit system are faced with significant financial hardship or even ruin because we are prohibited from spending our own money,” Gray said.
His leadership during the crisis included calling a city wide alert and addressing the city at Friendship Charter School. Throughout the government shutdown city services continued. Garbage collection continued. Street cleaning continued. Schools ran on time. Police and emergency services continued.