If the federal government shuts down on Tuesday, it could have real consequences for citizens of the nation’s capital – but not if D.C. officials get a say.
Mayor Vincent Gray and the D.C. City Council are bucking federal requirements that the city suspend nonessential services during a shutdown, and are calling all city services essential and therefore exempt. Mr. Gray sent a letter to that effect Wednesday to the director of the Office of Management and Budget.
In a statement released Wednesday, Mr. Gray explained his decision: “It is ridiculous that a city of 632,000 people … cannot spend its residents’ own local tax dollars to provide them the services they’ve paid for without Congressional approval.” He added, “Congress can’t even get its own fiscal house in order; they should be taking lessons from us rather than imposing needless suffering on us.”
The letter was an about-face for the mayor, who earlier this week released the city’s contingency plan stating that essential services — law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services, public schools, and a limited number of Health and Human Services functions – would continue during a shutdown, but other activities would be suspended. Suspended activities were to include trash collection, street cleaning and routine transportation repairs. Department of Motor Vehicle offices and public libraries would also be closed.
Because the city’s budget must be approved by Congress, the city can’t spend money without violating federal law. Since the mayor’s declaration, the city’s attorney general has raised concerns about fines or even arrests of city officials.