D.C. City Council Finance Committee Chairman John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2) said yesterday that he will not propose any new tax increases to help erase the city's projected $110 million deficit unless Mayor Marion Barry supports the increases first, and that he believes Barry will have to back down from his pledge not to lay off any city workers.
Barry said this week that he would not propose any new or increased taxes, but indicated he might sign such measures into law if the council proposed them first. But council action would be unlikely without Wilson's support, since tax measures must pass through his committee.
Wilson warned that even if agreement is eventually made to raise taxes, there is no way that the city could raise enough money through higher taxes in the remaining 10 months of the fiscal year to bridge the $110 million gap.
"The mayor is in a totally irresponsible posture right now," said Wilson. "He understands enough to know that somebody is going to have to be laid off and somebody's taxes are going to have to be increased. To say he's not going to do either one of those things is irresponsible."
Meanwhile, Annette Samuels, Barry's press spokeswoman, confirmed yesterday that Barry's transition team is now polling city residents on their feelings toward possible increases in various taxes and user fees. She declined to elaborate on the poll.
Wilson said the political perception fostered all year by Barry was that the city's finances were in good shape and that budget deficits would not be a recurring problem. Barry revealed the $110 million potential deficit over the weekend, blaming it on declining revenues due to the recession and overspending in some city agencies.
Wilson said Barry must now reverse the perception that the budget is under control and take steps to convince city residents and businessmen of the size of the city's financial problems.
"This government is run on perceptions and the perception of the last eight to nine months is that everything is fine, everything is in control," said Wilson. "The mayor will have to go to everyone and convince them of the problem so they can get together to solve it."
Wilson said he believed Barry had used property-tax money earmarked for the 1983 fiscal year -- which began Oct. 1 -- and spent it in the 1982 fiscal year to avoid a deficit that could have been embarrassing to the mayor during his reelection campaign. That contention was strenuously denied by City Administrator Elijah B. Rogers yesterday.
"I don't know what he is talking about," Rogers said. "Legally, we can't spend 1983 revenues in 1982 . . . We have followed the most stringent accounting system of any state or city in the country."
Barry spokeswoman Samuels declined to comment on Wilson's contention.
Wilson, who ran a short campaign against Barry in the Democratic primary for mayor, said Barry is currently trying to have him removed as head of the council's Finance and Revenue Committee.
"He wants somebody who will raise the taxes and take the heat for it," said Wilson, who last year proposed taxes on gasoline and inheritances with initial support from Barry, only to see the mayor back away from the taxes when public opposition formed.
Wilson said he would be reluctant to raise the city's property taxes now because assessments are leveling off for the first time in nearly a decade. Increasing the sales tax is unappealing, he said, because the recession has already slowed business in the city, while an increase in the income tax would break the conformity with the federal income tax that was established just last year.