Schwartz Lays Out Economic Proposal
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, October 2, 1998; Page B01
Republican mayoral candidate Carol Schwartz presented her economic plan for the District yesterday, including lowering the city's taxes, getting the federal payment back and bringing a major league baseball team to the city.
Standing on a busy corner in Anacostia in front of a boarded-up hamburger restaurant and across from a weeded lot she described as "worse than it was four years ago," Schwartz said that if she is elected, "change is going to come."
Schwartz's 24-point proposal for generating money for the District includes plans to lower sales and personal income taxes; to attract businesses with incentive packages; to improve licensing and regulatory services; and to create a youth job training program.
The corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Good Hope Road in Southeast Washington was the perfect backdrop for her announcement.
"We still have too many vacant buildings, too many abandoned businesses and too much lost potential," she said. "I want to see this commercial corridor in this wonderful and historic neighborhood thrive again. Not just with liquor stores, but with places to buy shoes and clothing . . . shop for a child's birthday present or Christmas gift, and more places where we can sit down, relax and have a bite to eat."
But her first order of business was to point out a major difference between her proposal and one part of the economic plan presented by her opponent, Democratic nominee Anthony A. Williams.
Williams, the city's former chief financial officer, has proposed replacing a host of taxes and fees paid by businesses and big law firms with a tax on the gross annual earnings of all businesses operating in the city. Williams, who has called the city's current system "dysfunctional," has said on more than one occasion that a gross receipts tax would provide "a fundamental system of fairness."
Schwartz attacked the idea, saying that it will send more business owners packing for the suburbs.
Schwartz said she wants to lower the city's 5.75 percent sales tax rate to 4.5 percent and would initiate "tax-free shopping days" to jump-start retail sales. She also would like to eliminate taxes on clothing and shoes that cost less than $100.
Schwartz said she helped get the personal income tax rate lowered from 11 percent to 9.5 percent during her previous stint on the council in the late 1980s. If elected mayor, she said, she would propose a further reduction.
She would pay for the sales tax cut by trying to recover the annual federal payment, which totaled about $660 million before adoption of the federal revitalization act. Schwartz said she would use the promise of a tax cut to lobby her Republican colleagues in Congress to restore the federal payment, which she argues the city is due for services rendered to U.S. government employees and agencies.
If that failed, she said, she would look for savings within the city's budget, although she would not agree to service cuts. She argued that the tax cut would pay for itself by spurring consumer spending and encouraging business growth in the District.
Schwartz defended her efforts as a council member to address the dearth of business activity at the Anacostia intersection where she held her news conference.
She said she helped pass legislation establishing enterprise zones, where businesses received tax breaks for investing in low-income neighborhoods.
"I certainly tried to do something about these blocks right here," Schwartz said. When asked why the legislation didn't seem to have made a difference, she said: "It's the executive branch of government that actually executes, and it didn't execute. That's why I want to be mayor."
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