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Budget Woes: Catania Seeks Delay of Healthy DC

The D.C. Council member who created a plan to provide health care to thousands of uninsured residents said today he wants to delay it to help the District create a $20 million cash reserve in the face of continued economic uncertainty.

David A. Catania (I-At Large), who sponsored the Healthy DC proposal that the council approved last spring, said he will formally ask his colleagues to postpone the program for at least a year. Instead, Catania said the cash reserve is necessary to prepare for a likely continued decline in revenues, which could swell the rolls of residents who seek health care under the D.C. Healthcare Alliance, a safety net for low-income residents.

Catania has been critical of revenue estimates made by D.C. Chief Financial Natwar M. Gandhi, who announced last month that the city faced a $131 million revenue shortfall for 2009. Although Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) has proposed closing the gap through a combination of spending cuts -- including eliminating hundreds of vacant jobs -- and using special revenue that has accrued in the accounts of city agencies, Catania said he expects the fiscal crisis to worsen.

"No one looks forward to making reductions," Catania said at a news conference with Fenty. "This means we have to take action that is more aggressive than we'd like but that the times require. Those that are the most dear to me are the first to be reduced."

Healthy DC ultimately could have reached 25,000 residents, a Catania aide said.

Catania said other new initiatives programs also would have to be put on hold, including a planned increase in Medicaid reimbursements and a plan to add physicians to the city's public schools.

The council has yet to vote on Fenty's budget reduction plan, saying it needs more information on some of the measures. But Fenty, who supported Catania's proposal to postpone Healthy DC and other programs, said today that he will issue an executive order to immediately reduce expenditures by $52 million. He'll need council approval to trim another $8 million in spending and use about $71 million in the accounts of the city agencies to balance the budget.

By David A Nakamura  |  October 28, 2008; 11:57 AM ET
Categories:  City Finances  
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25,000 people may have to wait for healthcare benefits to save DC govt millions! Why can't DC govt officials be tough of the developers and baseball owners and trim their budgets? We can start by taking back the $4 million in improvements we are going to give the Lerners.

It is obvious why DC has one of the highest disparities between the wealthy and poor in the entire country with these kinds of proposals.

I am sure some of 25,000 people who will be affected were also residents of the Franklin Shelter that just closed down.

Posted by: letsbereal2 | October 28, 2008 3:22 PM | Report abuse

and to fund the famous 50-100M DC tax scam bailout of the 21st century. Good work elected dudes. Keep on wastin'

Posted by: johng1 | October 28, 2008 11:22 PM | Report abuse

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