In a simpler time, when self-government for the inhabitants of the District of Columbia was merely a topic of study, debate over the wisdom with which a home rule government would exercise its powers was, of necessity, theoretical. Ultimately, Congress found the principle of local control over local affairs sufficiently compelling--and the prospect of relieving the national legislature of the burden of legislating over essentially local matters sufficiently appealing--to offer D.C. citizens the present form of government.
The Self-Government Act created a unique, semi-autonomous government, subject to certain fundamental limitations, including the reservation of ultimate congressional legislative authority and continuation of congressional budget controls. In comparison with jurisdictions with similar populations, whether states or local units, the District government is entrusted with broad responsibilities in the areas of planning and development, legislation and law enforcement, fiscal management, social services and many other areas normally handled by the combined efforts of states, counties, cities, towns and villages. The presence of a large diplomatic community and the seat of the national government create added responsibilities not shared by most jurisdictions. Illustrative of the evolution that has occurred with home rule during the last six years is the growth of the responsibilities of the Office of the Corporation Counsel to include not only the duties handled by municipal law officers, but also those usually associated with state attorneys general.
Since its inception, home rule has been subject to periodic attack, triggered usually by a particular executive or legislative action that has aroused the ire of various local or, in some instances, non-local interests.
The recent congressional action on the sexual assault bill was unusual-- indeed, a quirk--in overturning a local law that is similar to reform laws passed by 40 states.
Of 506 laws that have undergone congressional review since this form of home rule began in 1975, we have gained passage of 504--over 99 percent. The overall performance is one of congressional confidence in our government. The trends are continually improving, thanks to daily communication by the mayor with senators, representatives and key members of the executive branch.
I believe the obituaries were premature on our citizen-voted gambling initiative, since we have now gained the support of the Senate D.C. appropriations subcommittee, under the superb leadership of Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R-N.Y.). Moreover, the mayor has worked out an amicable arrangement with the subcommittee to meet all the District's affirmative action requirements on police hiring, at the same time enabling us to build rapidly our police force.
The progress in enlisting congressional support in achieving our financial goals is nothing short of stunning, in my estimation, when compared with that of years past. We owe this success to Reps. Julian C. Dixon (D-Calif.), Ronald V. Dellums (D-Calif.), Stewart B. McKinney (R- Conn.), William H. Natcher (D-Ky.), Delegate Walter E. Fauntroy (D-D.C.) and many others on the House side; and to Sens. D'Amato, Charles McC. Mathias Jr. (R-Md.), Thomas F. Eagleton (D- Mo.), Mark O. Hatfield (R-Ore.) and a host of other senators.
For the first time in home rule history, we received the full authorized federal payment of $300 million for fiscal 1981. We have received President Reagan's and the Senate D.C. appropriations subcommittee's support for a $336.6 million federal payment in fiscal 1982, an essential component of the mayor's commitment to achieve balanced budgets for the District. Congress has changed the 1982 District budget by only $9.5 million out of $1.55 billion, less than 1 percent. Again, this is unprecedented.
Despite all of these gains, we still have a long road to travel to achieve full self-government. We must continue to work for full control over our own local budget. Our local budget is predominantly paid for by D.C. taxpayers; therefore, full budget autonomy is a reasonable request. A non- resident income tax (as 4,450 U.S. cities and 42 states have), a formula- based federal payment that would enable us to budget in advance of a fiscal year, and full federal responsibility for pre-home-rule pension liabilities are other reasonable requests.
Because of the foundation we are building now, I believe we will achieve the majority of our self-government goals over time. Although we have some ways to go to achieve full self- determination, we have also traveled far in recent years.