U.S. Tells D.C. to Pay Inaugural Expenses
Other Security Projects Would Lose $11.9 Million
By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 11, 2005; Page A01
D.C. officials said yesterday that the Bush administration is refusing to reimburse the District for most of the costs associated with next week's inauguration, breaking with precedent and forcing the city to divert $11.9 million from homeland security projects.
Federal officials have told the District that it should cover the expenses by using some of the $240 million in federal homeland security grants it has received in the past three years -- money awarded to the city because it is among the places at highest risk of a terrorist attack.
But that grant money is earmarked for other security needs, Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) said in a Dec. 27 letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Joshua B. Bolten and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. Williams's office released the letter yesterday.
Williams estimated that the city's costs for the inauguration will total $17.3 million, most of it related to security. City officials said they can use an unspent $5.4 million from an annual federal fund that reimburses the District for costs incurred because of its status as the capital. But that leaves $11.9 million not covered, they said.
"We want to make this the best possible event, but not at the expense of D.C. taxpayers and other homeland security priorities," said Gregory M. McCarthy, the mayor's deputy chief of staff. "This is the first time there hasn't been a direct appropriation for the inauguration."
A spokesman for Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, which oversees the District, agreed with the mayor's stance. He called the Bush administration's position "simply not acceptable."
"It's an unfunded mandate of the most odious kind. How can the District be asked to take funds from important homeland security projects to pay for this instead?" said Davis spokesman David Marin.
The region has earmarked federal homeland security funds for such priorities as increasing hospital capacity, equipping firefighters with protective gear and building transit system command centers.
OMB spokesman Chad Kolton said no additional appropriation is needed for the inauguration.
"We think that an appropriate balance of money from [the annual reimbursement] fund and from homeland security grants is the most effective way to cover the additional cost the city incurs," Kolton said. "We recognize the city has a special burden to bear for many of these events. . . . That's expressly why in the post-9/11 era we are providing additional resources."
The $17.3 million the city expects to spend on this inauguration marks a sharp increase from the $8 million it incurred for Bush's first.
According to Williams's letter, the District anticipates spending $8.8 million in overtime pay for about 2,000 D.C. police officers; $2.7 million to pay 1,000-plus officers being sent by other jurisdictions across the country; $3 million to construct reviewing stands; and $2.5 million to place public works, health, transportation, fire, emergency management and business services on emergency footing.
Congressional aides said the District sought unsuccessfully last year to boost the annual security reimbursement fund from $15 million to $25 million to pay for inauguration expenses. In contrast, New York City and Boston-area lawmakers were able to obtain $50 million from Congress for each of those two jurisdictions to cover local security costs for the national political conventions.
Inauguration officials said they plan to spend $40 million on the four-day celebration, which will include fireworks, the swearing-in, a parade and nine balls. Those expenses -- which do not include security and other public services -- are being funded by private donors.
OMB and DHS spokesmen said they could not provide an estimate of what the inauguration will cost the federal government.
Federal employees who work in the District, Montgomery, Prince George's, Fairfax and Arlington counties, Alexandria and Falls Church are entitled to a holiday on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, the Office of Personnel Management has announced. As of June, the cost of giving federal workers in the capital area a day off was about $66 million.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) asked OPM chief Kay Coles James yesterday to dismiss federal employees at noon or 1 p.m. Jan. 19 to avoid gridlock. The Secret Service plans to close an area bordered by Constitution Avenue and E, 15th and 17th streets NW at 3:45 p.m. that day to accommodate a ceremony at the White House Ellipse, Norton's office said.