- The Washington Times - Monday, February 5, 2007

President Bush’s proposed $2.9 trillion federal budget released yesterday includes money to the District for projects such as a forensic crime laboratory, a Coast Guard facility in Southeast and millions of dollars to help improve public schools and libraries.

The proposal also allocates hundreds of millions of dollars for major initiatives elsewhere in the region, including $57.7 million for Food and Drug Administration construction projects in Montgomery County and $5.1 billion to build a Navy submarine and aircraft carrier at the shipyard in Newport News, Va.

Allocations to the District represent “a good start for collaboration” between the administrations of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Mr. Bush, said William Singer, chief of budget execution in the city administrator’s office.

“We definitely appreciate their support of initiatives like the forensics lab, local library construction and the continuation of successful school programs,” Mr. Singer said. “We’re optimistic.”

The proposed budget provides $40.8 million for a D.C. school-improvement program, including $13 million allocated to the public education system and $13 million for the State Education Office to “expand quality public charter schools.” Roughly $14.8 million is earmarked for the city’s voucher program.

The budget includes $10 million for renovation of the District’s public library system and notes that an estimated 37 percent of D.C. adults are functionally illiterate.

Mr. Bush also has proposed $10 million to construct a crime laboratory, with an expected completion date of 2009, that would help reduce the District’s backlog of cases requiring forensic analysis.

Mr. Fenty has announced a final design for the lab as one of his first-year goals.

The District would have to match the federal money and provide a $5 million reimbursement to the FBI, which has allowed the Metropolitan Police Department to process its forensic cases at the federal agency’s lab in Quantico, Va.

The proposed budget includes nearly $320 million for the Coast Guard headquarters, $49 million in grants to improve college readiness and $35 million for the D.C. Resident Tuition Assistance Program.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting member of Congress, said the Coast Guard facility “tops the list of victories” for the city. The construction, along with additional budget funding, will consolidate the Homeland Security Department offices on the west campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital and expedite development on the campus, which Mrs. Norton, a Democrat, said is her “major economic development project.”

Federal allocations for emergency planning and security costs decreased from $8 million in 2006 to $3 million in 2008, though unspent funds have left a total of $13 million available, according to the budget.

Spending for economic development and management reforms was projected to decrease from $52 million in 2006 to $38 million in 2008.

Ed Lazere, executive director of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, which monitors the city’s budget, said he had not reviewed the figures but that most observers didn’t expect major increases in overall federal spending in the District.

“The general sense is the Bush administration is keeping a lid on non-defense programs,” he said.

As in previous years, conditions are attached to federal funding.

The District is banned from using the money to distribute hypodermic needles to drug users, lobbying for D.C. statehood or legalizing medical marijuana. The District also is barred from spending any money for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger.

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