D.C. needs control over its own budget in event of another shutdown, D.C. administrator tells Senate panel

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The District of Columbia needs to be able to spend funds raised through local taxes in the event of another shutdown so it can pay its bills, D.C. City Administrator Allen Lew told a House panel Jan. 31.

"There is no reason that local funds raised through local taxes paid by District of Columbia residents and spent by the District of Columbia government should be entangled in federal debates on Capitol Hill," Lew told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee subcommittee on emergency management, intergovernmental relations, and the District of Columbia.

Having D.C.'s budget tied into the federal appropriations process threatens the District's financial stability when the government shuts down, he said.

D.C. delayed three major payments during the shutdown, Lew said. It had to delay its $114 million quarterly payment to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and the other two payments were Medicaid payments to managed care organizations and fee-for-service providers totaling $124 million.

Had the shutdown continued D.C. wouldn't have been able to offer unemployment services to federal employees affected.

Federal unemployment claims increase from 120 in October 2012 to over 15,500 in October 2013 during the shutdown.

"If the shutdown had continued, a very real potential existed for insolvency of the unemployment insurance fund due to the massive increase in claims without access to federal borrowing to pay for the increased claims," Lew said.

National Mall Superintend Robert Vogel echoed Lew's sentiment saying the best way to avoid shutdown impacts was to allow D.C. budget autonomy and to, simply, not shutdown the government.

Vogel said the National Parks Service has no plans rethink the way NPS acted during the shutdown. Only 12 NPS employees remained working during the shutdown to make sure monuments weren't vandalized.

"It was enormously painful to our staff to make the sites unavailable, but we are protecting national treasures," Vogel said.

For more:
- go to the hearing page (webcast and prepared testimony available)

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