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Karl A. Racine
Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia

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GAO Issues Opinion Concurring in Legal Analysis of DC Attorney General Regarding the Budget Autonomy Referendum

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ted Gest, Public Information Officer
[email protected]

WASHINGTON, D. C. -- The U.S. General Accountability Office, an independent arm of Congress charged with providing expertise on appropriations issues, issued an opinion today concluding that the provisions of the 2012 Budget Autonomy Referendum that attempted to change the role of the U.S. Government in the District’s budget process have “no legal effect.”  The comprehensive opinion, reflecting an evaluation over many months, concluded that “we agree with the concerns the Mayor and Attorney General of the District of Columbia have expressed,” and that the Budget Autonomy Act is “impermissible under the Home Rule Act.”  Both the opinion’s conclusion and reasoning closely track the opinions issued publicly over a year ago by the Attorney General to the D.C. Board of Elections.   

D. C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan stated: “We are gratified that the GAO has recognized that our legal assessment was correct.  We continue to regret that the citizens were led in the referendum to believe that their votes would alter the federally prescribed budget process, but believe the Congress should give effect to the strongly voiced opinion of our citizens that budget autonomy is fair and just and should be accorded to the District.  As I have said all along, the lawful way is the only way.  While we are grateful that Congress has passed legislation granting the District authority to spend local funds for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015, I join in the Mayor’s repeated and strong calls for the District to receive permanent budget autonomy to spend its own local tax dollars.  It is the right answer as a matter of basic self-government and justice, and it is more than warranted by the District’s consistent success in managing its budget in recent years.”