District to seek budget autonomy through referendum

WASHINGTON – D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson will propose legislation Tuesday seeking to put a voter referendum on a future ballot that would give District leaders more power to freely spend local tax dollars.

The legislation would amend the D.C. Home Rule Charter to allow the District to set its own fiscal calendar and spend local tax dollars without the approval of Congress. Several sources who have been briefed on the bill spoke on condition of anonymity because Mendelson has not made his legislation public.

Mendelson declined to comment.

The District has been fighting for greater budget autonomy for years and seemed close to a deal earlier this year, but threats from conservative members of Congress to attach abortion restrictions to the legislation made it unacceptable to District leaders.

Proponents of a ballot referendum say it could be a way to get around congressional interference. The referendum would not be on the Nov. 6 ballot, but would appear on a ballot in the next election if approved by the council.

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