The time to tap D.C.'s fund balance
By Ed Lazere and Elissa Silverman
We at the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute agree with Post columnist Colbert I. King that the District’s fiscal health should be issue No. 1 in this election [op-ed, July 31]. But we quibble with his statement that municipal finance comes “without a face.” Actually, it comes with 600,000 faces — those of residents who rely on the budget for everything from restaurant health inspections to library books to emergency shelter.
That’s why we take issue with the fixation of Mr. King and others on the decline in the “fund balance,” the District’s savings account. Almost every state has tapped into its fund balance to maintain critical public services during this recession. Saving in good times to spend in bad times makes sense, and the District saved more than most. At its peak, our fund balance equaled an extraordinary 25 percent of our local budget. If our fund balance dips to $600 million next year — the worst-case scenario — it will still be bigger as a share of our budget than in 43 states.
Instead, Mr. King and D.C. residents should press candidates on their plans to keep investing in our city and its people by helping those hurt the most and maintaining the progress the District has made over the past decade.
The writers are, respectively, executive director and policy associate at the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute.
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