Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon ordered D.C. agencies yesterday to cut their budgets by a total of $130 million, urged workers to forgo a pay raise and asked Congress for an additional $100 million to close a rapidly escalating budget deficit.
Among other actions, Dixon ordered a $13 million reduction in the police department's $257 million budget this year, according to sources. Department heads were notified late yesterday of specific cuts in their agency budgets, which are scheduled to be disclosed at a news conference this morning.
"I'm asking everyone to revisit all issues -- nothing is sacrosanct," said Dixon, who estimated the deficit at $300 million for fiscal 1991. "We will all start to suffer if we don't come to grips with this serious issue."
Dixon, who was sworn in Wednesday as the District's third mayor, plans to meet with President Bush this morning. She described the planned White House meeting as a courtesy visit that she hoped was a sign of the president's desire to "forge a new partnership" with the city.
Dixon told reporters that she was holding to her campaign pledge of no new taxes, but she declined to rule out the necessity of layoffs or furloughs if Congress refuses to appropriate the additional funds or agency heads do not cut deeply enough.
Among other budget measures being considered by the new administration are terminating "nonessential" service contracts and raising user fees by $8 million. In a statement distributed by aides, Dixon also raised the possibility of a reduction in services for city residents.
"While the reductions will target lower priority activities, cuts of this magnitude will necessarily affect programs and services," Dixon said in the statement. "I wish there was another way to bring the budget into balance, but years of imprudence now require a strong dose of corrective action."
D.C. Council Chairman John A. Wilson (D) expressed disappointment with the mayor's plan, saying that Dixon didn't take drastic enough steps and dismissing the proposed agency spending reductions as "paper cuts" akin to reductions ordered by former mayor Marion Barry that were never carried out.
"People are going to have to be cut from the budget. Programs are going to have to be cut," Wilson said. "You're going to have to do that eventually."
Teamsters Local 1714 President Eddie Kornegay, whose union is one of three major organizations representing city workers, said "we're not the least bit interested" in Dixon's proposal to put off a pay raise.
"I'm not going to agree that there will be no pay increase just to hold 'no tax increases' sacrosanct," said Kornegay, whose union represents corrections employees. "I'm not going to bear the brunt of a campaign promise that is unrealistic."
Dixon's position of no pay increases for city workers -- communicated to labor leaders during a hastily convened meeting yesterday -- represents a turnabout for the new mayor, who had previously committed herself to a 2 percent pay increase for city employees, according to labor leaders.
Dixon said "the money is simply not there" for the raises, which would cost an estimated $63 million, adding that "the alternatives are far worse."
Other union leaders said they were willing to discuss the issue in the context of collective bargaining set to begin within the next month. Some indicated that they might be willing to forgo pay increases this year in return for greater concessions at the end of a three-year contract.
Joslyn N. Williams, president of the Washington area AFL-CIO, commended Dixon's proposal for seeming "to spread the pain around" in addressing the budget deficit.
Exactly what programs and services will be affected by the cuts will not be known until agencies report back to Dixon in two weeks on proposals for implementing the reductions.
In a letter to agency heads, Dixon said she was leaving it up to them how to implement the cuts, although she emphasized that "every attempt should be made to minimize impacts" on low-income youth and the elderly, and to avoid reductions in such basic services as trash collection, motor vehicle registration and programs affecting public health and safety.
The budget reductions may be more easily proposed than achieved. In the past, some agencies have agreed to budget reductions, then exceeded those reduced levels because of spending on court-mandated programs and other services.
The news conference was the first of Dixon's administration and appeared designed to show the mayor seizing the initiative in addressing the budget deficit and pressuring Congress to increase its annual $435 million payment in lieu of taxes.
Several members of Congress have expressed an interest in increasing the federal payment, but they have made no firm commitments.
A spokeswoman for Sen. Brock Adams (D-Wash.), chairman of the Senate D.C. Appropriations subcommittee, said Adams "wants to be as helpful as possible and as supportive as possible to Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon, but at this point we really can't speculate on what the odds are" of Congress granting her request.
In addition to talking about cuts that have to be made, Dixon restated many of the themes of her inaugural speech. She emphasized how important commitment and honesty are to her, and said that she will tolerate no "game playing" by staff members.
Meanwhile, the mayor has asked Henry A. Hubschman, who was vice chair of her transition team, to serve as her sports liaison, including lobbying the National League for a new baseball team in Washington.
PROPOSED FOR D.C.'S BUDGET YEAR 1991 -- IN MILLIONS
Potential Budget Gap..............................$301.6
Planned Gap-Cutting Actions...................Projected Savings
Reduce Agency Spending............................$130
Negotiate Deferral of Pay Raises..................$63
Assess User Charges...............................$8.3
Total Projected Savings...........................$201.3
Remaining Gap (Funds Sought From Congress)........$100.3
SOURCE: Mayor's Office