WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said that President Trump’s fiscal year 2021 District of Columbia budget proposal, released yesterday, violates the District’s right to self-government, but that it has no chance of passing without significant changes. Norton said she expects to defeat prohibitions in the budget on D.C. spending its local funds to carry out the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act and its medical aid-in-dying law, the Death with Dignity Act, both of which she has protected from being repealed or blocked on multiple occasions. She was disappointed, but not surprised, that the president’s budget also continued to prohibit D.C. from spending its local funds on recreational marijuana commercialization and on abortions for low-income women. Norton got these provisions removed in last year’s D.C. Appropriations bill in the House, but the Senate refused to accept the changes. Norton was pleased that the budget includes Norton’s annual provision exempting D.C. from a government shutdown, showing that Norton has taken a D.C. government shutdown off the table even if Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate shut down the federal government.
Funding in the president’s budget for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) headquarters at the St. Elizabeths campus in Ward 8, Norton’s largest development project in the District, increased substantially to $659 million. The president’s budget funds D.C. private school vouchers, public schools, and public charter schools at $30 million each. Norton opposes vouchers but has been able to get equal funding for public and public charter schools. The D.C. voucher program has failed to improve academic achievement, as measured by math and reading test scores, as promised.
The budget provides $51 million for the D.C. Emergency Planning and Security Fund (EPSF), which is used to fund the unique security concerns of the District that relate to federal activities, such as special events and presidential inaugurations. Norton said that she hopes to avoid a funding crisis with the EPSF by proactively funding the needs of the District in advance of the next inauguration. The president’s budget also includes $3 million for D.C.’s continued efforts to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, which is $1 million less than D.C. got in the enacted FY 2020 bill. Norton will fight to restore this funding.
Most concerning, the president has, once again, proposed eliminating the D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant Program (DCTAG), Norton’s top priority, which she has secured $40 million for each of the last five years. Norton says she will ensure this program is fully funded by Congress, just as she has done for the last five years. The president’s budget also includes $150 million for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro).
Last year, Norton got the House to pass a historic fiscal year 2020 D.C. Appropriations bill, which had no riders and allowed D.C. to carry out its budget autonomy law for the first time ever, but the Republican Senate refused to ratify these historic changes in the final bill. Norton will continue her dual-track approach to achieve full District autonomy, pushing both D.C. statehood and increasing home-rule wherever possible.