Washington business leaders told a wide cross-section of civic and professional groups yesterday that city taxpayers would have to pay $77.6 million a year to implement just six of the 18 provisions of the proposed D.C. statehood constitution.
Seeking to give organizational form to what has so far been a largely vocal but apparently growing movement for rejection of the document, the Greater Washington Board of Trade, the city's major business organization, sought active assistance from more than a dozen represenatives who attended a briefing at the board's downtown headquarters.
The trade organization passed out copies of an analysis of the constitution, which concluded that a state based on the document drafted this year by a 45-delegate convention "would not be fiscally, economically and administratively viable."
The board also offered to provide opposition speakers at meetings where the constitution is discussed and to help in redrafting the document should it be defeated on the Nov. 2 ballot and returned to the convention for possible revision.
Referring to one provison of the proposed bill of rights that would guarantee all city residents a job or income, The Rev. John Whalen, director of the Consortium of Universities and chairman of the task force that analyzed the document, said, "The only good thing it would do is to stop the erosion of our population.
"Overnight, we might have 9 or 10 million people moving into the city -- anybody who can't find a job elsewhere," said Whalen.
The board estimated that it would cost $1 million a year to guarantee legal representation in civil cases to citizens who cannot afford counsel, $54 million to guarantee each citizen's right to a job, $15 million for a 40-member House of Delegates, $1 million for the office of lieutenant governor, $1.8 million for a Banking Commission and $4.8 million for an environmental protection agency.
Statehood Convention president Charles I. Cassell, noting that he had not yet seen the board's analysis, responded late yesterday, "One would expect that the transition from city to state would involve cost.
"It's just like the elimination of slavery," said Cassell. "That cost a lot too."
Howard Croft, a convention delegate from Ward 6 who headed the economic development committee, said the board's estimates were misleading because the District, even as a city, already spends millions of dollars a year on environmental issues, unemployment and welfare payments and the budget for its legislative body.
If the District became a state, he said, it would have authority to impose a long-sought commuter tax prohibited by the Home Rule charter. Such a tax would provide the city with an additional $416 million in annual revenues, according to city budget director Gladys W. Mack.
Besides the fiscal arguments, the Board of Trade said it specifically objected to inclusion in the constitution of provisions regarding right to employment and minimum income, a workers compensation program that provides for child care, and raising the age for mandatory school attendance from 16 to 18.
Other provisions are too vague, they said, including one that guarantees youths and the elderly the right to health and well-being. "I've been in the religion business a long time," said Whalen, a Roman Catholic priest, "and we've been trying to accomplish that for 2,000 years."