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Bowser and Racine Still at Odds in Budget Autonomy Case

Bowser doesn't agree with the city's elected attorney general about the Budget Autonomy Act. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The standoff between District of Columbia officials over the Budget Autonomy Act continued this week, with parties solidifying their positions in court filings and exposing a rift between the mayor and the attorney general.  

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser recently deviated from her predecessor , arguing that the act is legal, and has since filed a motion to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that the case should be dismissed. The case centered on a disagreement between two branches of D.C. government about the Budget Autonomy Act granting D.C. more control over its locally raised funds. Bowser's predecessor, Mayor Vincent Gray, clashed with the D.C. Council and believed the act was not legal, but Bowser took the opposite position. She argued that since the mayor and the council no longer disagree about the act, the case is moot. But she still faces opposition from the District's attorney general and chief financial officer.  

“CFO [Jeffrey S.] DeWitt and I continue to agree with U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan and regretfully conclude that the Budget Autonomy Act is not legally sound and thus cannot be enforced by the District,” Attorney General Karl A. Racine said in a Tuesday statement. “We believe the case should go forward and the court should decide it on its merits.”  

Racine was referring to the federal judge who struck down the budget autonomy law last May. The council appealed the decision, which is the case currently in question. The attorney general's office said timing on the ruling is up to the court, but the Racine's spokesman said best estimates are that there will be a decision on the motion to dismiss and a decision on the entire case by the end of August.  

The D.C. Council also filed a brief to the court Monday, arguing that the case should be decided in the local D.C. court, rather than by a federal judge.  

"The Council’s position is that there’s no longer any dispute between the council and the mayor because the mayor agrees with us that the Budget Autonomy Act is valid," the D.C. Council's outside counsel, Brian Netter
, said in a Tuesday phone interview. "So the only remaining dispute is with the CFO. And our position is that under federal law, the council's dispute with the CFO should be decided by D.C.'s local court system."  

In other words, the fate of the budget autonomy case remains uncertain, and litigation could continue if the federal court sends the case back to the D.C. court.  

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