Mayor Marion Barry has sent his first legislative program to Congress-a 23 point package that stresses more financial independence for the city buy places low priority on the long-sought authority to impose a commuter tax on suburbanites.
Nearly all of barry's proposals are ones that wer annually made by his predecessor, Walter E. Washington. They include full budget autonomy by 1982, a fixed formula, multi-year appropriation for the federal payment and authority to continue borrowing from the U.S. Treasury until the city can enter the private bond market.
Barry is also asking for the power-with approval of the City Council-to appoint judges for the city courts less regional intrusion in District of Columbia urban renewal planning an unprecedented $317 million federal payment and the right to allow construction of taller buildings (160 feet instead of 130 feet) in the downtown commercial area.
Judith W. Rogers, assistant city administrator for intergovernmental relations, who was also chief Capitol Hill lobbyist for former Mayor Washington, said that unlike the local legislative package, Capitol Hill legislation proposals have remained virtually the same since 19759
"Basically," Rogers said, "once the home rule act was passed, there were certain things the city wanted in terms of greater fiscal autonomy. The Hill package is not likely to change from year to year . . . The planks will always be the same."
Rogers said that making the commuter tax provision a low priority did not mean Barry was abandoning hope that the measure-traditionally opposed by suburban members of Congress-will be enacted at some point.
In a letter accompanying the legislative package, Barry said, "While many of these (other) proposals are also of great importance, my main effort in the first session (of the current Congress) will be in the fiscal area."
Rogers said the federal payment will be a major area of emphasis. The city is given an annually appropriated payment to compensate for the loss of tax revenues from tax exempt federal properties.
City officials have complained that the year-to-year allocation is too uncertain for sound budget planning, and that the present maximum amount-no more than $300 million-should be almost twice as high to make up for the real loss of revenue. About half the land in the District is tax exempt.
"It's clear that until we get some congressional action on the federal payment, it would be difficult to get budget autonomy," Rogers said. "We are planning to address the federal payment in the 96th Congress."
The 1982 budget autonomy timetable was set forth in 1977 by a special White House Task Force on District of Columbia Problems, headed by Vice President Mondale.
Other municipal finance areas covered in the legislative package include one that would place the city's troubled fire and police pension plan on a sound actuarial basis. Barry gave no price tag for such a measure, but in the past it has been estimated to cost about $2 billion.
Barry is also asking for legislation that would end the current requirement for Congress to appropriate money for the repayment of revenue bonds, a measure that has hampered the city's ability to borrow money for capital improvements designed to pay for themselves.
Barry also asked an additional $169.8 million to finance Metrorail construction costs.
In the area of judicial affairs, Barry asked that the city be given authority to appoint judges to the Superior Court and D.C. Court of Appeals and also be granted authority to prosecute local crimes now prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office here.