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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Clinton Proposes More Control of D.C.

WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration Monday proposed that the federal government take responsibility for billions of dollars of District of Columbia programs in exchange for eliminating the $660 million annual federal payment to the city, part of a package that would fundamentally redefine the District's relationship with the federal government.

Under the far-reaching proposal, self government in the District would retreat in many ways, with some federal agencies playing larger roles in D.C. affairs.

For example, the Internal Revenue Service would collect the city's annual income taxes, the Justice Department would take charge of the District's prisons and courts, and federal agencies would maintain the city's roads and bridges. But in other respects the District would gain a greater measure of home rule because Congress would no longer approve the city's annual budget.

If Congress approves the proposal, the federal government would begin funding the District more in the way that state governments support their cities. The federal government would take responsibility for the city's $5 billion shortfall in a retirement plan, pay a larger share of the District's annual Medicaid bills, pick up the cost of its prison system, put $1.4 billion into repairing local roads and bridges, help finance the city's $500 million budget deficit and create tax incentives to spur investment downtown and in poor neighborhoods.

Mayor Marion Barry, who called on the federal government to pay for many D.C. services last year, said he was encouraged by the administration proposal. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and D.C. financial control board Chairman Andrew Brimmer also reacted favorably, while acting D.C. Council Chairwoman Charlene Drew Jarvis was cautious, saying the loss of the federal payment and other aspects of the proposal need to be scrutinized.

"It is heading in the right direction,'' Barry said. "These are righting the wrongs that have been there for too many years."

Norton called the plan "the most promising and certainly the most innovative approach yet to emerge for relieving the District government of costs it can no longer shoulder."

"Unlike every other plan that has come forward, this has a chance of passage because it bears in mind not only the District's needs but the congressional insistence that its own costs not rise dramatically," Norton said.

By ending the federal payment to the city and requiring the District to balance its budget by fiscal 1998 -- a year earlier than Congress has required -- the Clinton administration's package has a better chance of being approved by the Republican-controlled Congress. Members from both parties have questioned whether they should give the District more money before the city makes deeper cuts in its $5 billion budget.