D.C. Budget Amendment Referendum Faces Voters

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Washington voters will decide whether or not to approve a charter amendment that will give the city more control over its budget, according to the Associated Press.

The municipal budget, by law, must receive approval through Congress.

Here's a closer look at the referendum.

Amendment strongly supported by voters

As reported by the AP , it is very likely that voters will approve the charter amendment. However, if Congress passes a disapproval resolution and the president signs it, the referendum will be neutralized.

However, that appears unlikely as both President Barack Obama and the Democrats controlling the Senate are unlikely to approve such a resolution.

The amendment would permit the district to spend 70 percent of its budget, the income earned from local tax revenue. Helping to justify a measure of autonomy has been the recurring risk of a federal shutdown which could potentially prevent the city from also functioning.

The city would also be permitted to change the fiscal year, currently set for Oct. 1, to Sept. 30. The current fiscal year makes school funding more complicated.

The idea comes from D.C. Vote, a coalition of national and local advocacy groups seeking stronger autonomy for the city. The group is throwing a "thank you" party for supporters of the campaign at The Brixton Tuesday night from 7 to 10 p.m., according to their site.

The amendment was endorsed by the DCist on Monday, which described D.C. as having "been treated no better than a federal government agency when it comes to how it uses its indigenous tax revenue," for decades.

Uncertainty over what follows amendment

It remains unclear what exactly will happen if the amendment passes.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said, "I can definitively answer: Nobody knows," according to the Associated Press. Norton represents Washington in Congress.

There are concerns that the amendment could be challenged in court because it takes power away from Congress.

Mayor Vincent Gray was initially skeptical about the supporting the bill, but changed his mind after the D.C. Council unanimously voted to put the matter on the ballot.

According to the AP, Gray said, "I said that I was dubious about it. But in light of that, I signed the bill with enthusiasm. I will be out enthusiastically voting for it."

Shawn Humphrey is a former contributor to The Flint Journal and lives near Washington in Germantown, Md.

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