It was Marion Barry's turn this week to step forward and curtsey in the election-year minuet at the District Building over real estate tax relief.
D.C. City Council member Barry (D-At Large) and Mayor Walter E. Washington are sponsoring similar tax packages. Between them, they have produced three separate bills for consideration by the council, the most recent one introduced this week by Barry.
Since Barry is an announced mayoral candidate and Washington is expected to run for reelection, it is no surprise that both want credit for helping homeowners distressed by mounting property assessments.
To produce a new tax law, the two men must work together, and with the rest of the council membership, which includes Council Chairman Sterling Tucker, also a mayoral candidate.
Tucker's only role to date has been to introduce the mayor's bill in the council, a routine act.
The legislation will be considered - probably May 3 - by the council's finance and revenue committee, which Barry heads. Once approved by the full council, the measure must be signed or vetoed by the mayor.
Barry was the first to step forward, last Nov. 11, with a proposal to reduce the real estate tax on owner-occupied homes and liberalize the "circuit breaker" program that provides income tax rebates for both renters and homeowners with low and moderate incomes.
One novel feature in Barry's bill would be a lower tax rate on residences than on commercial property, a proposal attacked by business groups at a hearing.
On Feb. 17, the mayor stepped forward with his own tax package, similar to Barry's as it would apply to taxing residences and commercial property, but providing direct income tax credits for low-income families instead of the "circuit breaker" rebates.
For residences, the mayor proposed a tax rate of $1.57 per $100 of assessed value (compared with Barry's proposal for $1.59). For commercial property, the rate would be $1.83, the rate charged this year for all real estate.
One feature of both bills is a proposed increase in what is called the "homestead exemption." The first $6,000 of the assessed value of a home is now exempt from taxation. The exemption is proposed to rise to $9,000.
This week it was Barry's turn again, introducing his own program anew, but incorporating the tax rate figures proposed by the mayor.
Barry also retained his own earlier proposal to extend the "circuit breaker" tax program from those earning $7,000 a year to $20,000. This provides tax benefits on a sliding scale depending upon housing costs and family composition.
Barry's press release this week did not mention the mayor's program, just as the mayor did not mention Barry's when he proposed his own program in February.
Both officials, interviewed by reporters, said in effect that they were glad the other had gone along with the ideas both claimed credit for originating.
Tucker, meantime, has been silent on the subject. Alan Grip, his special assistant, said the council chairman would have something to say on the matter very soon.
The four other candidates for mayor all have called for lower taxes. One of them, John Ray, has urged that land be taxed, but not the buildings errected on it.