Norton Says President’s Draconian Budget Was Dead Before Arrival
Norton Confident She Can Maintain Full Funding for DCTAG
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said that, fortunately, Congress has preempted President Trump’s fiscal year 2019 budget, released today, with its bipartisan budget deal passed last week that significantly boosted domestic spending levels by $131 billion over the next two years, dramatically exceeding Trump’s fiscal year 2018 and 2019 budgets. Norton said that although the President’s fiscal year 2019 budget does not contain funds for the D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant Program (DCTAG), she has been working with appropriators on the negotiations for the upcoming fiscal year 2018 omnibus to once again secure the record $40 million annual amount she has gotten for DCTAG the past two fiscal years, including in the first spending bill signed by Trump last May. Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget provided only $30 million for DCTAG, but with the two-year budget deal in place, Norton is once again seeking to maintain $40 million for the program, which has been successful in significantly increasing college attendance in D.C. and retaining taxpaying D.C. residents.
“It is often said a president’s budget is dead on arrival because of the independence of congressional appropriators and the constitutionally-granted power of the purse,” Norton said. “This budget is even deader because of last week’s sweeping bipartisan budget deal, which significantly increased domestic spending for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 because Democrats held out for parity between domestic and military increases. I want to assure D.C. parents and students, thousands of whom are away at college now, that I do not believe they are in danger of losing their DCTAG funds. DCTAG has been funded every year by Republican and Democratic Congresses alike and, unlike Trump this year, Republican presidents as well, since its creation. This draconian and backwards budget shows how out of touch this administration is with reality.”
Norton said the budget does not provide funding to the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water) for ongoing work to control flooding in the city and clean up the Anacostia and Potomac rivers and Rock Creek. The House-passed D.C. appropriations bills did not include funding for DC Water for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, yet Norton worked with the Senate to secure $14 million for DC Water in those fiscal years and she is confident she will be able to do so again because appropriators recognize that DC Water serves the Capitol and federal buildings as well.
The budget prohibits D.C. from spending its local funds on carrying out the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act and its medical aid-in-dying law, the Death with Dignity Act, both of which Norton has protected from being blocked or repealed despite multiple attempts by the Republican-controlled House. Similar riders were included in the House-passed fiscal year 2018 D.C. appropriations bill, but neither were in the Senate fiscal year D.C. appropriations bill, and Norton is hopeful she can keep both out of fiscal year 2018 omnibus, like she did in fiscal year 2017. The Trump budget also includes the same riders that were enacted in the fiscal year 2017 omnibus and in previous spending bills—prohibiting D.C. from spending its local funds on abortions for low-income women and on commercializing marijuana (though Norton saved legalization). The budget did not contain a rider to repeal D.C.’s budget autonomy referendum.
The budget also includes Norton’s annual provision exempting D.C. from a shutdown (in fiscal year 2020), showing that the Congress has taken a D.C. government shutdown off the table even if Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress shut down the federal government.
The budget contains $5 million to combat HIV/AIDS in D.C., equal to the fiscal year 2017 enacted level, which Norton has gotten every year to help make up for the 10 years when a rider kept D.C. from spending its local funds on a needle exchange program. She said the budget, as usual, provides funding for the Major General David F. Wherley, Jr. District of Columbia National Guard Retention and College Access Program for tuition for D.C. National Guard soldiers ($435,000), a small decrease from the fiscal year 2017 enacted level ($450,000). The program helps boost enlistment and retention in the D.C. National Guard by providing financial assistance to D.C. guardsmen to attend undergraduate, vocational, or technical courses.