Loose Lips

Judge Rules Against Budget Autonomy Referendum

Budget autonomy plaintiff Phil Mendelson

So much for that idea. Despite a 2013 referendum, the District can't just grant itself budget autonomy, according to a federal judge's opinion issued this morning.

The ruling is a loss for the D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who sued Vince Gray and Chief Financial Officer Jeff DeWitt to make them abide by the referendum after D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan said it had no legal effect. The Council will appeal, but a ruling on the appeal won't come in time for the Council's budget vote scheduled for later this month.

In his ruling, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan noted that despite his sympathy with the District as a native Washingtonian, he couldn't rule in favor of the Council and remove the requirement that Congress approve the District's budget.

“The Court is powerless to provide a legal remedy and cannot implement budget autonomy for the District,” Sullivan writes.

In a statement, Mendelson said that he would push for budget autonomy  "through other avenues." Pro-budget autonomy group D.C. Vote called the ruling "a sad Gray administration legacy."

Update, 12:25 p.m.: In a statement, Gray says he'll "forcefully advocate" for achieving budget autonomy some other way.

“Today’s ruling is bittersweet, because there is no fiercer advocate for budget autonomy in the District of Columbia than me," Gray says. "However, given the concerns I have continually expressed, I’m not surprised by the ruling. As I have said all along, we need to gain the freedom to spend our own money legally."

  • dcgovcorruption

    No surprise since congress had not changed the dc home rule charter or the constitution to give dc budget authority.

  • Typical DC BS

    Guess the brainiacs on the DC Council might want to sharpen up their reading skills and also realize that NOTHING has changed about who ultimately decides matters for DC.

  • http://www.citizen.org/Page.aspx?pid=396 Paul Alan Levy

    Judge Sullivan's opinion reads well, but there is a procedural aspect at the end that made no sense to me. Gray said that he thought the Budget Automony Act was unlawful, and hence that he would not comply with it. Why, then, was Judge Sullivan justified in issuing an injunction against GRAY, forbidding him from complying with that law?

  • Gilland McGuire

    The judge's keen sense wonder why DC Approved legislative laws by Congress for enactments for the people by the people never used to protect it citizens.the judge opinion was much too gracious in his cnclusion, Why so long in years to site a law for arugments of conveniences.we need judges knows the of its automomy.