Two senators who oversee the District of Columbia budget recommended yesterday that Congress grant a $249.1 million federal payment to the city, lifting the payment $57.6 million above the amount voted recently by the House of Representatives.
Sens. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate D.C. appropriations subcommittee, and Charles McC. Mathias Jr. (R-Md.), its ranking minority member, also recommended that the city's operating budget for the 1980 fiscal year be rasised $45.4 million above the House-approved level. The new total would be $1.396 billion.
Among other things, the senators' budget proposal apparently would avert a threat that city employes either would have to forego a pay increase this fall or face a layoff of up to 3,100 jobholders during the fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1.
Leahy and Mathias, in an unusual move intended to speed final congressional action on the budget, reached their agreement on the funding levels at an informal meeting. They will recommend them -- without official subcommittee action -- at a meeting of the full Senate Appropriations Committee today.
The two senators previously had announced that they also would urge the committee and the full Senate to reject a nearly total ban on city-financed abortions that was voted last week by the House.
That could lead to a direct confrontation with House members when the two versions of the city budget eventually are sent to a joint Senate-House conference committee to be reconciled.
Gladys Mack, D.C. budget director, said yesterday that she and aides were analyzing financial details of the Senate version. "Overall, it is positive," she said.
The U.S. payment for the 1979 fiscal year originally was $235 million, but that figure was lifted to $250 million over this last weekend when the senate completed congressional action on a supplemental budget for the city.
Among the items in the supplemental budget was $7.5 milluon sought by Mayor Marion Barry to complete the finnancing of his summer jobs program for 30,000 city youth. Congress had agreed to let the mayor reshuffle other city money to get the jobs program started on schedule.
City officials were stunned in June when the House budget-writers recommended that the federal payment for the 1980 fiscal year be slashed to $191.5 million.
That figure, approved by the full House last week, would be the lowest proportion of federal support for the city since 1965. The payment is designed chiefly to reimburse the city for taxes it cannot collect on federally-owned property and foreign embassies.
As it was cutting the federal payment, the House also sliced $78 million from the city's proposed operating budget. The city appealed that cut to the Senate and also asked for authority to spend funds on some programs that were not even considered by the House.
In agreeing to permit $45.4 million in additional spending. Leahy and Mathias added $10 million to funds fr the city's Human Resources Department but went along with the House in withholding another $5.7 million to bring pressure for a reduction in welfare error rates. They refused $8 million sought by the city for housing and rent subsidy programs until, they said, Barry adopts a housing policy.
The senators also agreed with the House's reduction of $5 million in the pension fund for police and firefighters to force further reforms in the disability pension program.
In the complicated world of congressional budget enactment, there is no dollar-for-dollar relationship between the amount that the federal payment rises and falls and the change in the amount of the budget itself. Most of the difference results from adjustments in the forecasts of city tax revenues, which finance the bulk of the budget.
The supplemental budget enacted by Congress over the weekend also provides the regional Metro transit agency with $23.2 million to pay the federal share of interest that fell due on its construction bonds on July 1.Metro had borrowed funds from other of its own accounts to prevent a default pending the congressional action.
The supplemental bill also granted the D.C. government nearly $2.6 million in federal funds to reimburse it for the cost of policing and other municipal sercices during last winter's demonstration on the Mall by the American Agriculture Movement.