The House voted final congressional approval yesterday to a $36.6 million increase in the authorized federal payment to the District of Columbia, sending the measure to the president for his expected signature.
In a related development, the House also completed congressional action on a measure permitting the District to continue borrowing funds from the U.S. Treasury for two more years to carry out its public works construction program.
Debate on the two measures was remarkably free of the rhetoric critical of the District that has marked House consideration of similar measures in the past. The sharpest comment came from Rep. John E. Porter (R-Ill.), who noted the city's "shameful fiscal chaos," but wound up supporting the increased federal payment, which authorizes a maximum annual payment of $336.6 million.
Approval of the two measures cleared the way for the House Appropriations Committee to act upon the city's pending $1.5 billion budget for the 1982 fiscal year, which begins next Oct. 1. As proposed by the city with White House support, the budget depends upon the added funding. The federal payment reimburses the city for federal and embassy property it cannot tax and for services the city provides to the U.S. government.
The federal payment has been limited to a maximum of $300 million since the city won limited home rule in 1975. Rep. Ronald V. Dellums (D-Calif.), chairman of the House District Committee, said an increase is needed for the city to pay increasing costs.
The borrowing measure is intended as a stop-gap, with the city ultimately slated to obtain capital outlay funds by floating bonds as other cities do.
When the federal payment proposal was being considered, fewer than a dozen of the 435 voting House members were on the floor, and it appeared the measure would sail through without challenge on an unrecorded voice vote. But Rep. Eugene Johnston (R-N.C.) noted the absence of a quorum, forcing a vote. The higher federal payment was approved 209 to 179, followed by a vote of 239 to 149 on the borrowing authorization.
While most opponents were Republicans, all the suburban Washington representatives of both parties supported both measures. These included Rep. Stanford E. Parris (R-Va.), who previously had blocked action on them, saying he wanted the city to pay serious attention to his opposition to its plans for increased dumping of sewage sludge at the city-owned Lorton landfill in southeastern Fairfax County. He later said that he had gained that objective.
Mayor Marion Barry has said that he wants to use the added federal payment to provide funds for the city's pension program and provide pay increases for city employes. At the District Building yesterday, Barry said he was delighted by the House action and expressed hope that Congress would appropriate the full $336.6 million.