City Council member John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2), miffed because he believes Mayor Marion Barry's administration is cool to his proposal for tax amnesty in the District, said yesterday that he may let the revenue-generating bill die.
Projected earnings from the tax amnesty proposal, estimated by Wilson at $20 million, have been expected to provide funding for a D.C. schools spending increase as well as further reduction of the city's accumulated deficit.
Wilson, chairman of the council's Finance and Revenue Committee and author of the bill, said in an interview that he will withdraw his support for it unless the mayor "unequivocally" backs it.
He also disclosed that he is preparing a major tax reform package that he expects to polish after the completion next month of a series of public hearings on taxation.
Wilson said his turnabout on tax amnesty came because the Barry administration raised objections to segments of the bill and disagreed with him over how much money the law would add to the city's tax coffers.
The legislation, introduced in March, would establish a period during which tax delinquents could pay back taxes and interest without incurring criminal or civil penalties. The law would cover income and franchise taxes, inheritance and estate taxes, sales tax and other taxes.
"I have no intention of bringing [tax amnesty] forward -- not unless they change their estimate of it and decide whether they unequivocally support it," Wilson said.
City Council Chairman David A. Clarke offered a slightly different explanation of Wilson's declining enthusiasm for the bill, saying it stems from the breakdown of a deal between Wilson and the mayor.
Clarke said Wilson had expected Barry to support the proposal, but in hearings before the finance committee last month Melvin W. Jones, director of the D.C. Department of Finance and Revenue, objected to portions of the bill. Clarke added that he believes the schools and deficit reduction will be funded, but perhaps from a source "that would be less to the executive branch's liking."
Barry aide Garland Pinkston, meanwhile, said yesterday that the mayor does support Wilson's bill but disagrees with his revenue projections. Barry aides estimate the revenues at $8 million to $10 million.
The proposal was a critical ingredient in the council's decision to earmark funds for deficit retirement and add $13 million to the budget for D.C. schools.
Wilson said yesterday that he is considering wide-ranging reforms in the city's tax laws, including revising property assessments, reducing estate taxes and creating a special school tax. Wilson, who is weighing a bid to challenge Barry in the Democratic mayoral primary Sept. 9, will chair a month-long series of public hearings in all eight wards beginning May 27 in Ward 1.
The council member, who said his tax proposal will be shaped by the hearings, cited his concern about the effects of rising assessments on older residents, as well as uncertainty over funding for schools.
He also suggested that he may seek to cut estate taxes to bring them in line with lower rates in Maryland and Virginia. Council member Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6) introduced in January a bill to reform estate taxes. It has been referred to Wilson's committee.