LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC) — The partial government shutdown made it even more abundantly clear to D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray that the city’s finances are too intricately connected with the federal government, he said in his weekly radio address exclusive to All News 99.1.
Obviously, the shutdown kept federal workers and contractors at home and forced the closure of many of the city’s tourist attractions — such as the National Zoo, the Smithsonian museums and the monuments. That resulted in a seven percent decrease in restaurant traffic and 13,000 fewer hotel bookings in the first week of October compared with Oct. 2012, Gray said.
But it also resulted in delayed payments to D.C.’s Medicaid providers, Metro and other regional and local agencies, and nearly resulted in a local government shutdown. The city was able to use a reserve fund to keep things running fairly smoothly, but the District is barred from spending its own local tax revenues unless Congress approves it and the contingency dollars would not have lasted forever, Gray says.
“In an age of federal budget uncertainty, we no longer have the luxury of being a company town whose economic fortunes are inextricably tied to the federal budget,” he said.
Gray noted that his administration is addressing the problem.
“For starters, we are working hard to get the District’s local budget permanently set free from the federal appropriations process. And, “while the current budget deal means the District won’t be ensnared in any federal budget stalemates for the rest of the fiscal year, what if this happens again after that?” he asked.
He went on to encourage residents to tell friends and family members in other parts of the country to write to their Congress members to “demand the District be set free from all future federal budget battles.”
Gray said he is also implementing a five-year economic development strategy “which contains many components designed to boost and diversify our city’s private sector economy.”
“We must take control of our own economic fate,” he said.
Listen to the Mayor’s full address here: