Mayor Marion Barry has submitted a package of financial legislation to Congress that includes a federal contribution to pay off half the District's accumulated general fund deficit, a proposed formula for the federal government's annual payment to the District and authority for the city to impose a commuter tax of up to 2 percent on the income of nonresidents who work in the city.
Some of the package, introduced by D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy at the mayor's request, represents a wish list that has little chance of passage, according to some congressional aides.
Congress prohibited the District from imposing a commuter tax on income of suburbanites who work in the city, for example, and there is still strong opposition to a commuter tax among influential congressmen.
The legislation also would provide for a federal payment of $134.5 million over 10 years to help pay off the District's accumulated general fund deficit that stood at about $270 million at the end of fiscal 1984.
Pauline A. Schneider, D.C. director of intergovernmental relations, said the package was designed to meet the concerns of financial analysts and bond rating agencies that had negatively affected the city's long-term bond ratings, making it more costly to borrow money in the municipal markets.
Lazard Freres & Co., acting as a financial advisor to the District, detailed some of the major concerns in January. These included the prohibition against a commuter tax, large unfunded pension liabilities that the federal government turned over to the District, the unpredictability of the federal payment, the large accumulated general fund deficit, and the city's lack of sovereignty because Congress has retained oversight of city budgetary and legislative affairs.
The annual federal payment now is negotiated between the District and the federal government, making it difficult for the city to budget ahead. In the past, the federal payment has represented about one-fifth of the city's revenues in a particular fiscal year.
The formula would have the federal government make an annual payment equal to 35 percent of the total tax revenue to the city's general fund as determined by the most recent audit. For fiscal 1986, the amount would have been based on the audit for fiscal 1984, and would have been somewhat higher than the $425 million proposed in President Reagan's budget, Schneider said.
Reagan endorsed the idea of a formula for determining the federal payment for the District but did not propose a specific plan.
A third piece of legislation would exempt bond acts from a congressional layover period to prevent delays in marketing the bonds that could cost the city money.