FOLLOWING THROUGH on his February budget proposal, President Bush sent legislation to Congress yesterday proposing to convey more than 200 acres of federal land to the District, and to have the city give the federal government several buildings and land on the grounds of St. Elizabeths Hospital, along with parcels of unimproved D.C. property. We said when the proposal was first unveiled that converting federal sites to local use is a welcome development for a city squeezed financially by the federal presence and the ban against taxing nonresident incomes. In a statement, Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) praised the White House proposal, describing it as a move that "will simultaneously create economic opportunity, improve life for many D.C. residents and advance home rule." If, in fact, the land transfer achieves those goals, the Bush administration and the mayor will deserve great credit for working out the deal.

The city anticipates putting the land to good use, provided Congress approves the proposal. Poplar Point on the east side of the Anacostia River, which will be turned over to the District, will be transformed for park and recreational use. District officials also hope to use a federally conveyed 15-acre parcel near RFK Stadium to construct a new state-of-the-art hospital and to restore the Old Naval Hospital Building in Southeast Washington. The city, likewise, will gain title to land near the old convention center. The federal government, in exchange, will receive not only the unimproved D.C. properties but also a piece that caught our eye: "Lovers Lane, N.W. . . . a one-block long former roadway located adjacent to Montrose Park and Dumbarton Oaks, which is owned by Harvard University" (the things to be learned by reading the fine print).

In sending the president's proposal to Congress, Joshua B. Bolten, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the properties to be conveyed to the District aren't currently providing substantial value to the federal government and that some are "an unnecessary burden." Of equal importance, the director described the administration's proposal as a "first step in a broader examination of underutilized Federal lands that may be considered for future conveyance to the District." A good first step, indeed, especially toward advancing the federal interest in ensuring a economically healthy nation's capital.