After one full week on the job, Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon has dramatically improved the District's political standing on Capitol Hill, winning bipartisan praise for her efforts to cut municipal spending and improve services.

But lawmakers caution that the outpouring of goodwill may not get Dixon the $100 million in federal funds she is seeking to balance the city's budget.

In interviews last week, about three dozen senators and House members overwhelmingly agreed that Dixon's inauguration began a new era after more than a decade of often stormy relations between Congress and Marion Barry's administration.

Delighted by her promises to clean up a government that many regard as wasteful, inept and corrupt, legislators described Dixon as "terrific" and "a real class act."

Those same lawmakers warned, however, that good reviews do not mean money in the bank. With Congress considering the prospect of war, the District's financial crisis has barely registered with members from outside the Washington area. And many warned that huge federal deficits will make it extremely difficult for Congress to provide the District significant financial assistance.

"I like her -- she's sharp," said Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) "It's unfortunate that she takes a ship that's halfway sinking, and she's burdened with all the baggage of the immediate past . . . . The District has got very special problems, and it frankly has been saddled with a mal-administration for some time.

"I would give her every consideration," Hyde said. But "it may be that it is impossible" to come up with $100 million this year. "That may not be possible within the structure of the budget."

Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) said, "People are very positive about Sharon Pratt Dixon. Many of us know her from her time as treasurer of the Democratic National Committee, and many of us like her.

"But the basic {financial} numbers are still dominant. Money is going to be very tight."

Dixon, who had her first round of meetings with congressional leaders last week, emerged from the sessions upbeat, despite a warning from Sen. Brock Adams (D-Wash.), chairman of the Senate D.C. Appropriations subcommittee, that there were no federal funds available for a bailout of the city.

Getting $100 million "is doable," Dixon insisted. "The reality is that right now it is a very difficult task. But somehow or another, I think we can pull it off."

In recent years, lawmakers have largely ignored the District's financial pleas. The District's federal payment -- money that the federal government allocates in lieu of taxes to help pay for local services it receives -- is $435 million a year. But the federal payment has not changed for five years, when the cost of city government grew substantially.

The federal payment now accounts for about 13 percent of the District budget. The D.C. Commission on Budget and Financial Priorities, chaired by Alice M. Rivlin, has recommended increasing the federal payment to a level equal to 30 percent of the local revenue raised by the District.

Several lawmakers say the payment was frozen in large part because Congress did not trust the Barry administration.

"I think {Dixon} is such a sharp contrast to Marion Barry, who would have gotten a vote of no confidence here," said Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio), who serves on the House D.C. Appropriations subcommittee. "People here want her to succeed."

That sentiment appears strongest among legislators from the Virginia and Maryland suburbs, who are most aware of the District's problems and who unanimously sing Dixon's praises.

Freshman Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) defeated incumbent Stan Parris (R) in November, ousting the District's most vocal congressional critic. "There's a whole new aura the District government has taken on, and I'm going to be fighting on their behalf," Moran said.

Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), who plans to meet with Dixon soon, said support for her crosses party lines. "I think the Congress should take a fresh look at the District's financial situation and hear out this new mayor," Warner said.

"I've had some discussions with the White House {about Dixon's budget request} and the president has an open mind about it," Warner said. "The First Lady also has a keen interest in this subject. She's very concerned."

But with the Persian Gulf crisis dominating Congress's agenda, lawmakers from outside the Washington area have scant time for other issues, especially local concerns such as the District budget.

Rep. Toby Roth (R-Wis.) said he is "encouraged by what I have seen in the new mayor," but that "honestly, I haven't thought about" what Congress might do to help her. "I'm sure she'll have a grace period, but beyond that I haven't thought about it."

Others stressed that the federal deficit reduction deal struck last year will severely limit the amount of new money available and will accelerate competition for it.

"What am I going to say to Philadelphia if we give money to the District?" asked Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), a former chairman of the D.C. Appropriations subcommittee. Philadelphia's government is suffering a more severe financial crisis.

"If we're passing out special appropriations, the District of Columbia is no higher than second on my list," Specter said.

Rep. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said that Dixon's request for money "couldn't come from a better person or come at a worse time. The Congress is not only encouraged, but enthusiastic about Dixon . . . . We're all going to try to help her out.

"But we're faced with budget deficit problems which make generosity very difficult," he said. "We recognize the importance of the nation's capital, but it is really tough at this time."