The chairman of the D.C. City Council finance and revenue committee declared his support yesterday for Mayor Marion Barry's $14.3 million tax and revenue proposals, but only if they are considered as a package, which the council can vote up or down.
Council member John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2) said he now sees "no other alternative" to the mayor's proposals, and that he intends to force the full council to vote on them as a single piece of budget-balancing legislation rather than as individual--and possibly controversial--items. He added that he would not support any changes in the proposals that would alter the $14.3 million figure.
Most of the 12 revenue-raising items were first proposed by Barry a year ago, but lacked Wilson's backing and died in his committee. Now, however, the city is confronted with a more serious financial crunch and is searching for ways to balance the $1.99 billion budget for fiscal year 1984 in the face of a potential $110 million deficit.
The mayor's proposals include an $8.2 million gross receipts tax on utilities to be passed on to telephone, electricity and gas customers; an increase in automobile registration fees that would raise an estimated $2.9 million; water and sewer rate increases; a new tax on sales of cooperative apartments; fees for medical care now provided free at city clinics; and increased license fees for architects, plumbers, undertakers and notaries public.
Wilson, who is conducting committee hearings on the new tax and revenue proposals, said also that he would not support any increase in taxes on personal income, property or retail sales unless the mayor freezes wages of District employes, renegotiates their union contracts and promises that there will be no further incentive bonuses for top Barry aides.
At an earlier council session yesterday, Chairman David A. Clarke said the mayor's revenue proposals have a better chance of passage this year because of the city's tight financial situation. But he said he was going to come up with some ideas of his own.
Clarke later questioned city finance officials on how much could be raised with a 3 percent personal property tax on cars owned by individuals, as is imposed in Virginia and Maryland, and on how much would be brought in if individual income tax rates were raised one percentage point in each bracket.
Wilson said he could not support either of these ideas because they add to the tax burden of the middle class, which he said is already being driven out of the city by taxes.
On another issue, Wilson said he opposes Barry's plan to spend $2.3 million to develop a city-owned park along the Georgetown waterfront. Instead, Wilson suggested using the money to help pay for a $13 million rehabilitation of the severely rundown Greenleaf public housing project in Southeast Washington.
Council members Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4) and Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3) opposed a plan to charge fees for clinical services such as mental health and alcoholism counseling and drug treatment. Marginal clients would not get treatment and would end up costing the city more for hospitalization, Jarvis said.
During the hearing, Wilson put forth his own plan for raising $8.2 million more from utility taxes. Under the Barry plan, organizations that are exempt from sales taxes--the federal government, the D.C. government, churches and charities--would pay the increase.
This is because a 6 percent sales tax on utility services would be eliminated and replaced with a higher gross receipts tax on telephone service, electricity and gas.
Wilson proposed retaining the 6 percent sales tax and raising the gross receipts tax just enough to raise $8.2 million.
"Something is going to be done in this particular area one way or another," Wilson predicted. "This scenario is not as ugly as the one" proposed by the mayor.