In a double blow for the District of Columbia's troubled finances, the House Appropriations Committee voted yesterday to cut this year's added federal payment to the city by $33 million and the full House voted to keep next year's payment nearly $65 million below President Carter's request.
The Appropriations Committee endorsed a supplemental payment of $28.8 million, less than half of what the city sought. The committee action was identical to that taken April 30 by its D.C. Subcommittee, and would produce what one top city official has called "a castrophic impact on municipal operations between now and Sept. 30."
If approved by the full House and then by the Senate, the action would push the federal payment for the year to 267 million -- still short of the $300 million authorized by law, which Mayor Marion Barry has said is needed to help eliminate the city's projected $172 million deficit.
The full House, in a separate action, delivered a potentially more devastating blow by adopting a national budget ceiling for the 1981 fiscal year that would push the District's federal payment back down to $238 million. The president has proposed $301 million, and the city's precariously balanced proposed budget now pending before Congress depends upon that figure.
District of Columbia officials prepared a counterattack yesterday against the deep slash in the federal payment.
City administrator Elijah B. Rogers called an news conference today at which he said he would detail what the $33 million reduction in the payment would do to city programs unless it is reversed on the House floor or in the Senate. When the appropriation panel's D.C. subcommittee recommended the cut on April 30, Rogers predicted it would have a "catastrophic impact."
"In an austere fiscal environment," the House Budget Committee said in a report, "it is difficult for the federal government to increase its financial support for the District of Columbia government."
The annual federal payment is designed to compensate the city for taxes it cannot collect on federal and foreign chancery properties and for unusal costs the city incurs in its role as the nation's capital.
The Appropriations Committee's action on the supplemental budget was accompanied by scolding words for the city.
Rep. Julian C. Dixon (D-Calif.), the new chairman of the D.C. Appropriations subcommittee, said the city must choose more clearly between keeping employes on its payroll and maintaining social programs for its citizens.
"Where you have only so much money to work with, you have to establish what should come first," Dixon said."That is the challenge."
Rep. Charles Wilson (D-Tex.), who preceded Dixon as chairman and still serves with him on the D.C. panel, predicted to the Appropriations Committee that Barry's decision to lay off 225 Corrections Department employes as part of his belt-tighting program will create "an extremely dangerous and explosive situation at Lorton," the city's maximum security prison in suburban Virginia.
Wilson renewed his contention that the city has a payroll bloated with administrators, and said Barry should thin those ranks instead of firing people like prison guards.
In its official report on the bill, the Appropriations, Committee said reductions in the school budget should be taken from administrative costs, not education programs.
Barry, told of the congressional actions and comments, said the Appropriations Committee vote was expected but he expected to appeal the cuts to the Senate.
On the federal payment ceiling adopted by the House, Barry said, "Of course, we're concerned. We've got to get the federal government to pay its fair share." He called Wilson's comments about Lorton and the city's bloated payroll "the height of irresponsibility."