- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2001

District of Columbia Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday presented his $5.3 billion, "back-to-the-basics" budget for fiscal 2002, stressing increased aid for the poor, public services and education.
The D.C. Council received Mr. Williams' spending plan with unusual amity, especially in the wake of controversy over his plan to essentially close D.C. General Hospital, which the council opposes.
The mayor's budget, which is an 8.4 percent increase over last year's, includes no funds for inpatient care at D.C. General.
Mr. Williams is proposing increases for education far short of the 11 percent increase requested by the school system. Instead, he wants to raise the school system budget by 4.5 percent an increase of $28 million that will include a $750,000 program to recruit principals, $174 million for building and renovating schools and $14 million in capital funding for the University of the District of Columbia.
Charter schools will receive a $37 million increase in funding because of large increases in their enrollment.
"The first and foremost priority of my administration continues to be creating new opportunities for our youth through quality education," the mayor said. "In FY 2001, I committed to full funding for education, and I maintain that commitment in FY 2002."
School board officials expressed disappointment over the budget, but said they would "try again" next round.
The mayor's budget also includes increased spending on help for the poor. He has proposed a $12 million expansion of the earned income tax credit, the Medicaid program and prescription-drug benefits. The plan includes $17 million to develop affordable housing and $11 million for neighborhood-revitalization projects.
In his budget, the mayor also wants to:
Make $9 million available to relocate residents living in substandard apartments.
Spend $2 million cleaning up the Anacostia River.
Increase funding to the police department by $10 million, which could add as many as 450 new police officers.
Spend $12 million in capital upgrades for the fire department.
Set aside $11 million for library renovations.
Earmark $67 million to renovate recreation centers and $56 million for streets.
The most controversial element of the spending plan is $58 million earmarked for health care spending. The proposal does not include inpatient care at D.C. General Hospital.
That issue will come up again today as the D.C. Council is expected to consider and reject a contract privatizing health care services for the city.
If the 13-member council does so, the financial control board could override that veto and allow the project to move services to Greater Southeast Community Hospital.


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