A District of Columbia spending package that would force a deep cut in the city payroll after Oct. 1 was adopted yesterday by the House D.C. Appropriations Subcommittee.
Under terms of the District budget recommended by the subcommittee, the city would either have to cut in half the expected annual pay increase for 35,000 municipal employes or drop an estimated 1,700 workers from the rolls by attrition.
The committee also voted to slash the federal payment to the District of Columbia to $191.5 million, the lowest level since 1974.
That figure is $125.5 million below what the D.C. government and President Carter requested, and $43.5 million below the federal payment of $235 million voted by Congress for the current 1979 fiscal year.
For D.C. taxpayers, the federal payment is a bread-and-butter issue. In general, the lower the payment, the more in taxes that city residents must pay to finance local government operations.
The subcommittee recommended an operating budget of $1.35 billion for the 1980 fiscal year, cutting $78 million from the city's request. The federal payment would finance 14.1 percent of the spending. As recently as 1975, the U.S. payment accounted for 26.7 percent of the city budget.
Yesterday's subcommittee action was the first of several procedural steps-but a key one-that the city budget takes in advancing through Congress. Despite limited home rule, Congress maintains its grip on city finances.
The full Appropriations Committee and the House ordinarily upholds the subcommittee. The Senate passes its own version of the budget. The two versions are reconciled in the final appropriation bill.
Yesterday's meeting also was the first decision-making session presided over by the subcommittee's new chairman, Rep. Charles Wilson (D-Texas). He made good on his earlier warning that he wants the city payroll trimmed.
As the meeting opened, Wilson pointed to a chart compiled at his request by the Library of Congress showing that the District of Columbia has 708 employes for each 10,000 population, compared with a national average of 485 city, county and state employes for every 10,000 people. Maryland's average is 524; Virginia's is 510.
To bring the city's total down, Wilson recommended - and the subcommittee agreed - that the amount of money set aside for pay increases for D.C. employes in the 1980 fiscal year be reduced by $25 million from the city's request of $72.6 million.
The effect, city budget director Gladys Mack said, would be to reduce the city payroll by 1,700 workers for the full fiscal year. Rep. Louis Stokes (D-Ohio) said one other possibility would be to cut the annual pay increase for city employes to 2.1 percent, well below the 5.5 percent expected for federal workers. Traditionally, the District of Columbia has matched federal pay increases.
When Stokes made a motion to give the city all the money it requested, he was outvoted 7 to 1.
The pay increase fund took the sharpest individual cut in the budget adopted by the subcommittee. At the outset, the subcommittee trimmed 1 percent from the request of all city agencies except those in the public safety field, such as the police and fire departments.
It voted to reduce funding for several small agencies set up by the city to represent consumers and minorities.
For example, it refused at first to provide $175,000 in direct funding for the Minority Business Opportunity Commission, which was created to channel city contracts to small and chiefly black entrepreneurs. Then, at the urging of Stokes, it agreed to assign six employes to the commission by transferring them from the 46-employe Office of Human Rights, which deals with discrimination complaints in and out of the city government.
Why is a minority business commission needed, Wilson asked rhetorically, in a city that is 76.1 percent black and has a black mayor? "It's like Madisonville, Texas, setting up a commission to see that cowboys get their share-they're all cowboys," Wilson said.
The subcommittee cut the city's request for 21 employes in the Office of Consumer Protection to 14. The office now has 18 authorized employes.
It also refused direct funding for commissions to license medical doctors and private educational institutions, assigning those duties to the Department of Licenses, Investigations and Inspections.
It refused to expand the Rental Accommodations Office from 40 to 72 employes, or to approve $2 million to begin a rent-subsidy program for low-income familes under the city's rent control law.
For the public school system, the subcommittee took note of a declining enrollment and recommended just under the $231 million that was appropriated for this year. It refused to requested increase of $11 million.
The subcommittee cut the request of the Department of Human Resources, which operates the city's welfare and public health programs, by $22 million below the request of $286.3 million. It granted most of the$3 million increase sought by D.C. General Hospital.
The budget approved yesterday is the first, and major, part of the city's spending program for the 1980 fiscal year. It represents funds requested by former mayor Walter E. Washington.Increases totaling $76 million sought by Mayor Marion Barry will be included in a supplemental request expected to reach the Capitol on Friday.
Barry's request for an additional $52 million for the current fiscal year, including $8.2 million to pay for a summer jobs program for youth, also are on their way to Congress.
Mack, the city's budget director, said the subcommittee decision to slash the federal payment leaves the city without any tax funds to finance the supplemental requests. So the only way to pay for the supplemental requests would be to add to the federal payment, she said.
The budget approved yesterday would use up most of the $40 million balance the city showed on its books at the end of the 1978 fiscal year-a sum often called a surplus. However, the budget includes $7 million in nonearmarked funds the city could tap for unexpected expenditures, Wilson said.