Mayor Marion Barry, jockeying with the D.C. City Council over control of the city's purse strings, vetoed a bill yesterday that would sharply restrict the mayor's power to shift budgeted money from one program to another.
Barry said in a message to the council that the bill usurps his management authority and "fails to provide the proper balance between legislative [council] and executive [mayoral] functions."
The council passed the measure by an unrecorded voice vote Sept. 25 after Barry made an unprecedented appearance before the council to argue against it.
The measure would require the mayor to obtain council approval on virtually all funds that are shifted among agencies or programs after the city budget is enacted by Congress. Before Oct. 1, when a new computerized management system went into operation, the mayor was generally required to get approval for shifts above $25,000.
Barry had sought the right to shift up to $50,000 among small programs and as much as $750,000 among large ones, such as the multimillion-dollar public welfare programs.
Council members have complained that such transfers, called reprogrammings, often have been used in the past to curtail or even eliminate governmental programs or functions. Without a review power, they have said, this could happen again without their knowing about it.
Yesterday's veto was only the second by Barry since he took office last January. No attempt was made by the concil to override his first veto, which would have permitted exterior advertisting on taxicabs.
A veto override requires a three-quarters vote of council members present at a meeting -- nine if all 13 are there.
John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2), chairman of the council's Finance and Revenue Committee, and Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4), head of a council task force on financial management said they would continue to try to strike a compromise with Barry before deciding whether to try to override the veto.
"We've been extraordinarily cooperative, we've bent over backwards" in trying to find a middle ground, Jarvis said.
Barry, in his message, insisted that he, too, had shown "a willingness to consider compromise" and had made two compromise proposals that the council had refused to accept.
The council never acted on one of those and it voted Nov. 6 not to consider the other one. Instead, it directed Council Chairman Arrington Dixon to forward the now-vetoed bill to the mayor for his action.
Some council members were openly critical of Dixon at that meeting because the council had passed the bill, using its emergency powers, on Sept. 25, but the chairman had waited six weeks before transmitting it to Barry. Dixon said the council's position was "restrictive and harsh," and he wanted it reconsidered.
In his message, Barry criticized the council for using its emergency powers to pass the bill. The council's extensive use of those powers is currently under challenge in the D.C. Court of Appeals.