The president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade has called on the District government to raise the city's property taxes, insist on a greater federal contribution to the city's treasury, cut the budget by 5 to 10 percent and increase Metro fares.
Charging that "political rhetoric" has distorted the city's budget predicament, Ralph Frey, chief executive of the city's most powerful business lobbying organization, says the board "has serious concerns about the present economic conditions and directions" of the District.
Frey said Mayor Marion Barry's proposal to raise several types of business taxes "is not at all helpful and may indeed be the proverbial straw that breaks the back of D.C. businesses of all sizes.
"Placing the revenue burden primarily on one sector is clearly unfair, especially when one considers that any tax is ultimately borne by the D.C. consumer in the form of increased prices," Frey wrote.
In a letter to City Council Chairman Arrington Dixon, Frey said the board is willing to "roll up our sleeves" and help work out a solution to the city's increasing budget shortfall. "It is time to rise above divisive rhetoric and recognize that the futures of business and of the residential communities are complementary," Frey wrote last week.
Frey said the District's policies are deterring business development in the city and encouraging firms to move to the suburbs. Frey cited the city's controversial workemen's compensation law, a commercial tax rate and minimum wage standards higher than inthe suburbs, rent control and condominium conversion laws.
The city should make additional cuts in its work force and reduce appropriated government spending by 5 to 10 percent, he said.
Frey said the city should collect immediately more than $23 million in delinquent tax payments from businesses and individuals and collect other overdue payments including $10 million in late water and sewer bills.
In addition, Frey said the city's $54 million contribution to meeting the costs of Metro service should be cut by an immediate fare increase. Without a fare hike, the District will be forced to increase its Metro grant by $22 million in the 1981 fiscal year.
Frey said the federal government's payment to the city, which has dropped to 17 percent of the city's budget, should be increased by the board working to gain at least a $35 million increase in the federal payment.