- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 26, 2002

A study by the Brookings Institution lays out several arguments to support the fact that the nation's capital deserves more direct funding from the federal government than it currently receives. The study is worthy of serious deliberations.

Currently, the District of Columbia, like states, receives federal funds for things like schools, law enforcement, Medicaid and food stamps. But the District is not a state, nor should it be. However, as the nation's capital, it should receive federal dollars in lieu of such things as federal taxes.

The Brookings study lists five options for a federal payment, including a per-capita grant, but does not make any recommendations. That is not necessary since Congress and the Bush administration are already familiar with the politics of one of the authors study former Clinton budget chief Alive Rivlin, who also headed up the congressionally created control board that oversaw D.C. government.

A new economic-policy relationship with the federal government is certainly in order. The federal government is a burden a welcome burden, but a burden nonetheless on the city when it does not pay its fair share. For example, the huge demonstrations, the tighter security since September 11 and such drain local funds. While Congress often appropriates federal dollars to help offset such costs, the burden still chiefly falls on D.C. taxpayers. That is unfair.

Until the late-1990s, the federal government gave a set annual payment to the District. That ended when the Clinton administration instead offered to pick up a larger share of the tab on some state-related costs, such as Medicaid. However, reconfiguration of a long-term and sustainable federal payment would be better.

As things now stand, the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, is doing a comparative study of D.C. finances vs. those in other cities. After that report is delivered, Congress next year should convene discussions on a federal payment in lieu of taxes, cost-cutting measures, and the like. Some D.C. leaders, of course, are anxious. The city has a $323 million deficit, and elected officials up for reelection had to made some tough calls because of overspending. That is another reason why the GAO will prove helpful.

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