If Elected, Brazil Would Seek Tax Cut
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 16, 1998; Page B06
Harold Brazil said yesterday that if he is elected mayor he will use the curtailed power of the office to lobby Congress in support of a $800 million tax cut to stimulate business growth and keep middle-class taxpayers in the District.
Brazil (D-At Large), who discussed his mayoral campaign during a luncheon with Washington Post reporters and editors, said he would raise half the money to pay for the tax increase through management initiatives and then "challenge" Congress to put up the other half.
"We need to broaden the [tax] base, and an infusion of cash . . . will stimulate our economy and bring businesses and jobs back to Washington and bring the middle class back to Washington, so I'm talking business taxes and personal taxes," Brazil said.
He acknowledged that it would take time and effort to sell the tax cut not only to Congress, but to the D.C. financial control board and the city's chief financial officer.
"Not in the first or second year, but hopefully by the fourth year of a Brazil administration we can have that kind of tax cut," he said.
As for keeping the streets safe and clean, Brazil acknowledged that the mayor no longer controls the agencies responsible for those functions. He said that he would work with the control board and Chief Management Officer Camille C. Barnett, but that he would spend most of his time improving relations with members of Congress to persuade them to restore home rule.
Brazil, 49, a lawyer and former federal prosecutor, said he saw his constituency as "the middle-class, black or white . . . higher educated, higher income." He said he was aware that lower-income city residents might eye him with suspicion and said he needed to work to appeal to those voters.
The eight-year veteran of the council -- six years representing Ward 6 and two as an at-large member -- said he doesn't expect to get much support from his colleagues on the council.
"I don't think I'll get any endorsements," he said. Brazil attributed the strained relations with some of his colleagues to his criticism of their slowness to embrace reform, including cutting taxes and controlling spending.
But he described a feud with council member Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 6) that seemed more personal than philosophical. It began on the night Ambrose won his old seat in a special election.
"I went to congratulate her and she snubbed me," Brazil said, mentioning a handshake that he described as dismissive. As a result, he said, he had no problem casting the swing vote against her on the emotionally charged Children Island's project.
The proposal, which would have permitted developers to build a theme park on an island in the Anacostia River, passed the council on a 7 to 6 vote. Brazil said he thought the proposal carried environmental safeguards and would have generated jobs by converting what he described as a trash dump. Several weeks after the vote, the control board deemed the proposal incomplete and canceled the lease agreement approved by the council.
In addition to the tax cut, Brazil said he would work to make Washington "an international economic gateway" that would perhaps target telecommunications and other technology-based businesses.
Brazil offered few specifics on the proposal and acknowledged that it might not work. "If it does not work, that's fine. The idea is that the next mayor has to think, 'How can I broaden the base to bring more economic activity here?' " he said.
But he made it clear that he favors a free-market approach to stimulating the economy. For example, although he said he supports a "living wage" proposal set forth this week by the Washington Interfaith Network, he said he does not support a government mandate that employers pay their workers more than the minimum wage. Brazil said he would look to the private sector to create jobs for unemployed city residents and develop businesses in city neighborhoods.
"I'm not willing to do anything to stall this economy," he said.
Brazil is one three council members who are seeking the Democratic mayoral nomination. The other two, Kevin P. Chavous (Ward 7) and Jack Evans (Ward 2), along with Brazil formed the nucleus of the so-called "Young Turks," a group of 40-something, Clinton-type Democrats who often dueled with older, more liberal members of council over the direction of the city.
"I'm the one that created the Young Turks, or turkeys as we were called sometimes by some folks," Brazil quipped.
But Brazil suggested that he has remained more faithful to the reform label than his colleagues. He said he has often been the lone dissenting vote on spending issues and that he has pushed through more anti-crime legislation than anyone on the council. He also took credit for the procurement reform legislation passed last year and the business regulatory reforms adopted this year.
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