President Carter refused yesterday to recommend nationwide funding of a $400-million-a-year educational assistance program that pumps more than $28 million into Washingon are schools, creating a confrontation between the new Democratic chief executive and members of his own party, who represent most of the region.
Rep. Herbert E. Harris (D-Va.), who had asked Carter to support full funding of the so-called federal impact aid program that was rejected earlier by then-President Ford, said he would try to organize a bloc in the House to challenge Carter's decision.
Failure to obtain the funds would mean cutbacks of school programs or increased local taxes, Harris said.
He estimated that each property tax bill in Fairfax County - which be the region's biggest loser - would have to be raised by $68 to offset curtailment of impact aid.
The issue has been a recurring one on Capitol Hill. Republican Presidents Nixon and Ford both sought to eliminate the funds, only to be overriden by the Democratic-controlled. Congress. The funds provide subsidies to schools attended by children of federal employees and military personel.
Harris said yesterday that the refusal of a Democratic President to support the funding creates obvious, potentially severe poktical problems for members of the Democratic Party.
Of te seven House members (six representatives and one delegrate) who represent the Washington area, five are Democrats.
Although virtually hidden in the federal budget revisions sent by Carter to Capitol Hill yesterday, the omission of impact aid funds is the item with perhaps the clearest regional impact. The budget revisions proposed by Carter for the fiscal year starting next Oct. 1 include or omit these items affecting the Washington area:
The full $300 million annual federal payment sought by the Distrcit of Columbia, as compensation for untaxed federal property in the city, would be restored. Ford, breaking with recent tradition, sought to cut it by $10 million. Mayor Walter E. Washington, who appealed for the restoration, said this was "good news" for the hard-pressed city.
The Defense Department announced it will close the new Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, a medical college for military officers, on the grounds of the Bethesda Naval Hospital. Defense Secretary Harold Brown siaid this would save $14 million next year and an ultimate $100 million in construction funds. Chairman Melvin Price (D-III.) of the House Armed Services Committee said he was "rather stunned" by the announcement, but had not decided whether to challenge it.
The U.S. Department of Transportation dropped a Ford proposal to limit severely the operating subsidies granted to transit systems around the country. For the Washington area, this means the threat of losing $8.6 million assistance to the Metrobus system has been eliminated.
The Department of Transportation also refused to provide additional U.S. financing for the Washington Metrorail system, which officials said is needed, to keep construction of the troubled project on schedule. Metro had asked for federal aid through transfered interstate highway funds totaling $544 million. Carter refused to lift Ford's ceiling of $350 million.
Under the impact aid program as proposed by Ford and now embraced by Carter, the government would continue to subsidize only the education of students who actually live on government property or military bases.
For the entire Washington area, this amounts to only $4.8 million a year, with a high proption of this sum going for children who live at Ft. Belvoir in Fairfax County and Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George's County.
The bulk of the impact funds - $28.1 million - currently subsidizes the education of children whose parents work on federal property. Nationally, the program currently totals an estimated $400 million.
Critics of impact aid contend that some of the nation's most affluent suburbs, which ring Washington, are being doubly rewarded for having residents who are typically well-paid federal workers. Supporters assert that the funds help offset the lact of an industrial tax base in a region dominated by a largely untaxed federal presence.
Harris cited these figures on the effect of the impact aid cutoff, supplied by the U.S. Office of Education (all figures in millions): [CHART OMITTED]