The Bush administration proposed a budget yesterday that includes new spending on military pay, defense and homeland security but pulls back from past commitments to the Chesapeake Bay and Bethesda's National Institutes of Health.
The emphasis on security as opposed to domestic needs is made clear in spending on federal workers, including 340,000 Washington area personnel. The president calls for raises in military pay averaging 4.1 percent but would increase civil service salaries by 2 percent.
President Bush's overall $2.23 trillion fiscal 2004 plan -- crimped by an economic slowdown, a $674 billion tax cut proposal and deficit spending -- provides no new funding for a long-promised plan to consolidate 6,200 Food and Drug Administration workers at a $600 million headquarters at White Oak in Montgomery County, to which Congress has appropriated $146 million.
Democrats complained that money for a revolving fund for state clean water programs would be cut from $1.4 billion in fiscal 2002 to $850 million. Maryland's share -- used to upgrade sewage treatment plants -- would fall $12 million to $20.5 million, according to the office of Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.), dean of the state's Democrat-dominated delegation.
"There are significant cuts that impact the economy, the environment and communities," Sarbanes spokesman Jesse Jacobs said. "The rhetoric of the president's speech last week is being felt now with the reality of the budget situation."
Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), a minority member of the House Appropriations Committee, said the budget contained no major transportation aid, unlike past years when money was available for big-ticket items such as replacing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and rebuilding the Springfield Mixing Bowl interchange.
He and other local members vowed to fight to even the proposed pay raise disparity between 270,000 federal workers and 150,000 locally based military personnel.
"This is a real slap in the face to government workers, to give them half of what the American military families and half of what American families [on average] will get," Moran said. Government analysts project that half of federal workers will become eligible to retire within five years, and "this budget pushes them out the door," Moran said.
NIH will see only a 2 percent increase, after the president and Congress doubled its budget over the last five years. The president's emphasis on bioterrorism preparedness will mean that grants for other medical research will drop, marking just the second time that has happened since 1989.
"Cutting funding for this research undermines our ability to find the cures that save people's lives," said Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), a Senate Appropriations Committee member who expressed "grave concerns" over the lack of dollars for FDA consolidation and "drastic cuts" at NIH.
Even as Democratic leaders emphasized the cuts and few major regional initiatives, the White House distributed talking points highlighting the impact of Bush's proposed tax cuts and his increased funding for drug addiction treatment, Medicare prescription drug proposals and global anti-AIDS programs. The budget also supports several construction programs underway.
"The president's budget plan is full of good news for a cash-strapped commonwealth," said David Marin, a spokesman for Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.). "First, it's a sure bet that a significant portion of the $35 billion proposed for homeland security will not only make the D.C. region safer from terrorist threats, but will also be a boon for the local economy."
The office of Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), who chairs a House Appropriations subcommittee, stated that 4.5 million District, Maryland and Virginia residents would have lower tax bills if Bush's tax cuts pass.
Several bricks-and-mortar projects also would go forward. The president would give the Department of Homeland Security $30 million to design a permanent headquarters in the region. Bush also proposed $24.3 million for a new a Joint Strike Fighter testing facility at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, $10.4 million to help build a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration science center near College Park and $14.8 million to reduce the Naval Sea Systems Command's reliance on the water system at Indian Head.
The plan also includes the latest installments for a National Institute of Standards and Technology lab in Gaithersburg ($7 million), new U.S. Census Bureau facility in Suitland ($147 million) and extension of the Metro system's Blue Line to Largo ($65 million).
In the District, the president endorsed a proposal to grant partial budget autonomy to the city, allowing its locally funded budget to take effect automatically each year without prior congressional approval.
The proposed budget also would provide a two-year extension of the popular $5,000 first-time home buyer tax credit and D.C. enterprise zone business tax credits.
It would continue a $17 million tuition assistance program for D.C. high school graduates and a $15 million public safety contingency fund for capital demonstrations. It also would chip in $15 million toward a long-term, $1.3 billion project to stop stormwater runoff from polluting the Anacostia and Potomac rivers and $10 million toward a waterfront Anacostia "riverwalk" backed by Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D).