WASHINGTON - President Bush's proposed $3.1 trillion fiscal 2009 budget calls for a $262 million federal payment be made to the District of Columbia to help finance a variety of services, according to budget documents.

The budget request for fiscal 2009, which begins on Oct. 1, will be considered by Congress over the next several months. However, it is unknown how many of Bush's proposals will be put into action, as the president's tenure enters its final year and a new administration will take the helm in January.

The proposed budget for fiscal 2009 marks a decrease in payments to the district. In his fiscal 2008 budget, Bush requested that the district receive $294 million from the federal government, $32 million more than what he proposed this year.

The district's court system would receive the lion's share of federal dollars. The administration proposed allocating $224 million to the courts. Specifically, the District Superior Court would receive the largest amount of that allocation, $104 million. The court system received the same amount in fiscal 2008, and $218 million in fiscal 2007.

Following the courts, the district's Defender Services, which provides public legal representation to defendants who cannot afford a lawyer, is allocated $48 million. The organization received the same amount in fiscal 2008, and $45 million in fiscal 2007.

District officials declined to comment on the president's proposed budget.

Though the district has an independent city government, Congress maintains oversight of its budget and all legislation passed by the District Council. District officials asked Congress last year to consider legislation that would give the district budgetary autonomy.

During a hearing regarding the bill, district chief financial officer Natwar Gandhi said the delays that accompany congressional oversight could have a detrimental effect on its bond rating, and its reputation with Wall Street could be improved if it were allowed to manage its finances independently. The legislation is still pending.

The CFO's office declined to comment on Bush's proposed budget. q

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