The office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said today that the President's fiscal year 2014 budget funds Norton's top priorities for the District of Columbia, but contravenes the purpose of the D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant program (DCTAG) by imposing new means testing. While the budget fully funds DCTAG at $35 million, a $5 million increase over the fiscal year 2013 enacted level, it reduces the household income eligibility from $1 million -- a change that Republicans added as part of the last reauthorization -- to $450,000 for students who enter the program in the 2014-2015 school year, though it does not affect current recipients.
"I am deeply disappointed, even shocked, by the President's proposal to further means test DCTAG, and I will do everything I can to keep this provision from being enacted into law," Norton said. "It is true that Representative Paul Ryan's fiscal year 2012 budget proposed means testing, but it was never adopted by the Appropriations Committee and even Ryan did not include means testing in his fiscal year 2013 and 2014 budgets. No state university system means tests in-state tuition. We never expected the President to initiate the erosion of DCTAG, which I got enacted during a Republican Congress to replicate a state university system because the District has only one public university and was losing taxpayers as a result. DCTAG makes up the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition at public colleges across the United States, putting D.C. students and parents closer to the position of other American families. It provides equal access to higher education for D.C. residents, and has helped to stabilize, and now grow, the District's population. Before the program was created, families were moving to neighboring states, which have dozens of public universities, and we don't need that to start happening again."
Norton also pointed out important funds in the President's budget. His budget also provides $50 million for D.C. public schools, including $20 million for public charter schools, and $2.2 million to carry out evaluations and administration of the congressionally imposed D.C. private school voucher program, but does not provide additional funding for students, though there is enough money in the program through the 2014-2015 school year.
Under the President's budget, D.C. would also receive $14.9 million for emergency planning and security costs incurred in connection with the presence of the federal government and national events; the D.C. National Guard would receive $500,000, up from $375,000 in the fiscal year 2013 enacted level; the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities would receive $1 million for competitively awarded grants; and the D.C. Water's Clean Rivers Project would receive $14.5 million to eliminate combined sewer overflows into the Anacostia and Potomac rivers and Rock Creek, a special Norton priority.
Of particular importance to the District is the $367,031,000 provided for continued construction of the consolidated U.S. Department of Homeland Security Headquarters (DHS) campus at St. Elizabeths, which includes $261,531,000 in the General Services Administration Budget and $105,500,000 in the DHS budget, indicating the Administration's ongoing support of the project and recognition of the long-term cost savings that come from consolidating agencies and moving agencies from leased office space into federally owned space. These funds ratify Norton's promise to the District and Ward 8 that despite slower funds, the DHS complex will be completed. The budget also includes $9,800,000 for D.C. to redevelop the St. Elizabeths East Campus, which is owned by D.C. Norton pressed strongly for assistance for the East Campus major redevelopment that will complement the federal presence on the West Campus and provide construction and permanent jobs to many D.C. residents.
Another Norton priority in the President's budget is funding for the fifth $150 million installment for WMATA, per an authorization for $1.5 billion in federal funds for capital improvements authorized in the 2008 Rail Safety Improvement Act, which Norton helped to champion as a senior member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
"The funding measures that President Obama provides for our city in his proposed budget display his continued commitment to the wellbeing of D.C.," said Norton. "Many of our priorities, particularly in public transportation, job growth and public safety, are addressed by the President. I will work to see that these key provisions are enacted into law and that DCTAG remains whole."