- The Washington Times - Monday, February 7, 2005

Plans for a new U.S. Coast Guard headquarters in Southeast, a crime lab and $33 million in college-tuition assistance were among the D.C. initiatives included in President Bush’s proposed $2.57 trillion federal budget yesterday.

The spending plan also called for the creation of a special fund for the District to cover as much as $15 million in local policing costs at federal events such as the presidential inauguration and the World Bank meeting.

The proposal also calls for $25 million to go toward a Coast Guard headquarters on the campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital in Southeast, $19 million to replace steam pipes at federal and D.C. government buildings, and $5 million for a walking trail as part of the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative.

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, a Democrat, said he was “extremely pleased” by the budget plan. “President Bush’s team listened and heard the priorities I articulated … over the past year,” he said.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the District’s nonvoting representative in Congress, said the proposal also calls for the federal government to increase its Medicaid reimbursement rates for child welfare services from 50 percent to 70 percent. The change would mean about $6 million in additional federal funds to the District.

“The District has come out much better than many federal agencies will come out,” she said.

She also said $7 million in federal money for a crime lab is important because the District has had to rely on the FBI and other federal agencies for those services.

D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, a Democrat, said the District appeared to fare better than other jurisdictions hit by domestic spending cuts. She said she would have liked more funding for sewer-system upgrades.

“The federal government needs to do an overhaul of the sewer system,” Mrs. Cropp said yesterday. “They’re our biggest customer.”

The budget proposal also includes plans for the federal government to begin a review of its land in the District to see whether “any parcels would be better utilized by the District.”

Mrs. Norton said federal law prevents agencies from giving away land, but that it’s possible the District could be given jurisdiction in some cases.

The St. Elizabeths property is overseen by the District and federal governments. The hospital, which treats mentally ill patients, has been scaled back from 7,000 patients in the 1940s to about 600 patients.

The hospital campus, at 2700 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE, comprises more than 140 buildings — many crumbling — on more than 300 acres. Government officials have been studying ways to redevelop the property for the past few years.

Mrs. Norton said the Coast Guard is planning a headquarters building for the site, and the remainder of the campus is likely to be used as office space for the Department of Homeland Security.

The proposed budget drew more cautious reactions from elected officials in Maryland and Virginia.

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, had no comment. “It will take some time for us to review it, and I expect we’ll be doing that for the next few days,” said Henry Fawell, spokesman for Mr. Ehrlich.

Rep. Stony H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said he was troubled that pay increases given to military personnel continue to outpace civilian federal workers.

“Pay parity is an important tool in ensuring civilian federal employees are paid fairly, which is essential to attracting and keeping quality employees,” he said.

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat who has been mentioned as a contender in the 2008 presidential race, said the budget plan contained “deep cuts in domestic spending.”

“I am concerned that reductions … will impede our efforts to strengthen rural communities and create new jobs,” Mr. Warner said.

Gary Emerling contributed to this report.


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