House and Senate conferees have voted to award the District a full $4.6 million supplemental federal payment that if approved by the full Congress, would raise the city's total federal payment for the current fiscal year to $300 million -- a record high.
The conference report, which was hammered out Tuesday night, would represent the first time since 1971 that the District received from Congress the full amount authorized as federal payment, and would surpass the 1980 federal payment of $296 million, previously the highest on record.
But the conferees also approved language that sharply criticizes District officials for ignoring a Congressional directive last year to increase the strength of the city's police force to 3,880 officers. Congress gave the city $6 million last year specifically to increase the force to that level, but the department currently has only about 3,630 officers.
The conference report states that "if this critical problem is not resolved at once, future federal payments to the District will be jeopardized."
The federal payment is the amount paid to the city by Congress each year in lieu of taxes on federally owned land and for other services performed for the federal government by the District. Congress last year cut $4.6 million from the $300 million the city requested for the current fiscal year. Tuesday's action restored the money that had been cut.
The supplemental $4.6 million was requested to fund D.C. Department of Transportation programs and unemployment compensation benefits. But the conferees shifted about $300,000 from the $4.4 million the city wanted for the Transportation Department to the D.C. courts, which are running out of money for jury and witness fees.
Gladys W. Mack, assistant city administrator for budget and resource development, said that despite the shift of funds and the language chidding the city for not hiring more policemen, city officials are "very pleased" at the conference report authorizing the full $300 million.
In a prepared statement, Mayor Marion Barry thanked conservative Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R-N.Y.), chairman of the Senate subcommittee on D.C. appropriations, who pushed for the extra funding. He also thanked Rep. Julian Dixon (D-Calif.), whose House D.C. Appropriations subcommittee was more critical of the city's management of its funds. Members of that subcommittee, sources said, lobbied for inclusion of the language blasting the city for not beefing up the police force.