As noted earlier, the District did relatively well in the new federal spending bill by one measure: It will have no restrictions tomorrow that it doesn’t have today. The city government still can’t fund abortions in any manner, but it remains free to use locally raised dollars for medical marijuana and needle exchange programs.
But there is another measure to consider — the amount of federal dollars being pumped into the city. By that metric, results are mixed.
The popular D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant program, which allows city residents to pay in-state tuition at public universities outside the District, is again funded, albeit at a lower level. The consensus bill puts $30 million into what was a $35 million program last year. A previous $10 million federal payment for housing the homeless is not funded in the new deal, and school funding has been reduced from $77 million to $60 million.
But there is a new $5 million payment for HIV/AIDS prevention, and the bill also funds D.C. Water’s long-term project to control sewage releases to the tune of $15 million. That’s less than the $25 million it had requested but more than last year’s $11.5 million in funding.
Then there’s another huge priority of the D.C. officials: The Department of Homeland Security consolidation on the west campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital in Ward 8.
House Republicans had proposed zeroing out funding for the project in fiscal 2012, but the consensus deal includes $56 million to complete the new Coast Guard headquarters now under construction on the campus and avoid delays in moving other agencies.
Abe Rakov, a spokesman for Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), said the St. Elizabeths project might also benefit from $50 million in nationwide General Services Administration spending authority.
DHS and GSA had together requested $376 million for the project in fiscal 2012. The project is now expected to cost nearly $4 billion and deliver in 2021, according to a recent Federal Times report.