Fenty Seeks Small Rise In Spending

By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty testified before D.C. Council members yesterday that his proposed 2009 budget is his own, reflecting his new policies and priorities, unlike last year, when many initiatives were holdovers from predecessor Anthony A. Williams.

The budget calls for a frugal 0.7 percent increase in local spending, dramatically less than the accustomed annual growth in the city's expenditures and a signal that Fenty is heeding the warnings of fiscal advisers to rein in spending as the economy slows.

"I want to note that this is the first full budget cycle of my administration," Fenty (D) said. "By going through the planning process from start to finish this year, we were able to achieve a much deeper sense of how this government should spend the funds with which the public entrusts it and us.

"What you see before you is a lean, fiscally responsible budget proposal," he said.

The increase, which bumps local spending from about $5.6 billion to about $5.7 billion, gave council members little to rally around en masse. Their questions often reflected individual interests or business in their committees.

Fenty started four hours of testimony by reading a 7 1/2 -page statement aloud.

Some council members said the proposal was lean on details.

For example, council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) said the proposal does not provide details about the transfer of money from one agency to another. Council member Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) said the budget was "not transparent."

Although Fenty told council members that he would provide particulars as the budget process unfolds, Gray said he plans to introduce emergency legislation today that would require the mayor to supply more specifics.

Fenty said his administration is taking a new approach to the budget as he continues to give priority to education.

In the past, he said, the city has estimated the increased cost of operating government and asked department heads to propose changes within that increase. "Well, that's no way to craft a budget," Fenty said. "Now, the agency director has to show if there is an increase, why there is an increase."

Yesterday's overview kicked off budget hearings for all agencies. The hearings are scheduled to be completed at the end of April. The council is to take a final vote on the spending plan by June 3.

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