While officeholders in Washington are often accused of being out of touch, evidently the condition is catching and The Post has got it ["Boss Kay Bailey Hutchison," editorial, June 13]. I'm confident that most of The Post's readers would agree with me that a 15 percent raise for part-time city council members, which would increase their annual salary to $92,000, is at least worth questioning.

By comparison with surrounding jurisdictions, the proposed pay raise is high. Fairfax County, with twice the District's population, pays its supervisors half of what their D.C. counterparts earn. Baltimore City Council members make only $37,000 annually.

The Post also is off the mark regarding my views on the District's debt. The District has a debt of $3.5 billion and, even with the restructuring, will have a debt service burden of nearly 13 percent of local revenue. A general guideline for bond rating agencies is 10 percent. Although the District just earned an investment grade rating on its debt, it remains at the lowest rank of investment grade debt.

As a former state treasurer, I know well that prudent debt management lowers interest rates. I look forward to helping the District in any way I can to ensure the city's financial situation continues its recovery from junk-bond status.

Finally, the editorial's comments about "home rule . . . be damned" ring a little disingenuous. My Democratic colleague on the committee, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, was quite a bit more pointed than I regarding his concerns about the District's budget, which focused on the proposed tax cut. The tax cut, like the pay raise I questioned, was also agreed to among the control board, the mayor and the council. Because The Post shares Sen. Durbin's views about the tax cut, he was spared an editorial lecture about home rule.

I take seriously the constitutional responsibility for congressional oversight of the District of Columbia. Years of congressional neglect, coupled with outright irresponsibility by District officials, created the financial crisis from which the District now is emerging.

This year Washington will derive nearly 10 percent of its budget from the federal taxpayers; our capital belongs to all Americans; and Congress should ensure that the District is an example of the best that we are.


U.S. Senator (R-Tex.)