D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon received a mixed reaction on Capitol Hill yesterday to her request for additional federal funds to help bail the District out of its budget problems.
The new mayor is seeking a special appropriation of $100 million as part of a plan to eliminate a projected $300 million deficit in the D.C. budget this year.
But after a morning meeting with Dixon, Sen. Brock Adams (D-Wash.), chairman of the Senate D.C. appropriations subcommittee, told reporters it would be "impossible" for Congress to provide the additional funds because of constraints imposed by the recent federal budget agreement.
Under that agreement, any effort to earmark additional funds for the District would have to be accompanied by an offsetting reduction in other domestic programs, according to congressional staff members.
"There is no money in the Appropriations Committee for anybody," Adams said. "There is no money where you can go and say, here is $100 million or any number of millions of dollars that can be allocated" for the District.
However, Adams said he would not rule out the possibility that Congress could find some "imaginative" approach to alleviating the city's financial burden, such as by forgiving or deferring a D.C. obligation to the federal government.
Among the D.C. obligations he cited was the city's annual payment to the Federal Bureau of Prisons for housing D.C. inmates. He also mentioned the annual interest costs on funds the city borrowed years ago from the federal treasury. Those annual payments alone cost the D.C. government about $100 million, according to city officials.
"I hope to help in every way I can," Adams said.
Meanwhile, Rep. Julian C. Dixon (D-Calif.), chairman of the House D.C. appropriations subcommittee, said after a later meeting with the mayor that he is "committed to helping Mayor Dixon in any way I can" to obtain the additional $100 million.
"It is in our best interest to do it," Rep. Dixon said. "I think the District is long overdue for an increase in the federal payment that perhaps could have avoided this crisis."
Rep. Dixon seemed to discount problems with the federal budget agreement, saying, "There are always unforeseeable emergencies. The budget mark is probably not including all the money for Desert Shield. We're going to have a bank bailout here. We need some extraodinary help in getting this through.
"It is going to be more difficult . . . but not impossible," he said of the District's request for an additional $100 million in assistance.
The mayor also met with Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), Rep. Tony P. Hall (D-Ohio) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.). Mayor Dixon said she came away from her initial round of meetings "optimistic" about the prospect for additional funds.
"I believe where there's a will, there's a way," she said. "I think people appreciate that the District is prepared to tighten the belt and do what is necessary. We're going to take our hard hit, but beyond that, we do need help from our friends on the Hill."
Earlier in the day, the mayor met in her office with Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Audrey Moore (D). The two discussed regional issues such as jobs and transportation, and the city's correctional facility at Lorton.