Republican mayoral nominee Maurice T. Turner Jr. vowed yesterday to veto any new tax package for the District if he is elected, and said that getting the city's fiscal house in order would likely take at least a year.

Turner, a 55-year-old former D.C. police chief, told reporters and editors of The Washington Post during a luncheon interview that although his pledge to veto new taxes is a firm one, "times change" and he might be forced to reconsider his opposition to higher taxes at some point in the future. He also said he plans to order an audit of the government's management to identify unnecessary or incompetent employees he said should be eliminated from the public payroll.

Democratic mayoral nominee Sharon Pratt Dixon, Turner's chief rival in the Nov. 6 election, has said she might approve a new tax package if the D.C. Council passes one next year. Dixon also has said she would order a management audit before undertaking the firing of 2,000 District government workers.

During the 90-minute interview, Turner called for unspecified changes in the government's personnel regulations, which he described as "some of the strangest," to make it easier to dismiss incompetent city employees.

Turner said he had not closely studied the District government, noting at one point that he had not "looked that in depth at all the agencies." But the former chief did advance some proposals to streamline and decentralize the bureaucracy he said was too bloated.

Last night, in a televised debate with Dixon, Turner reiterated the need to reduce government "bloat" and repeated other campaign themes.

In the interview, he proposed establishing satellite offices of the Division of Motor Vehicles in each police precinct in the city so that drivers could renew their licenses without having to wait in the frequently long lines at the agency's downtown office.

Other key elements of Turner's budget plan include an immediate hiring freeze and not replacing the 6,000 to 7,000 employees who he said retire from city government each year.

Attrition would save the city $195 million a year, Turner said. Some city agencies, such as the police and fire departments, as well as essential workers in public health, would be exempt from the hiring freeze, he added.

Trimming the city payroll, Turner contended, would have no effect on the quality or delivery of city services. "It's going to be painless to the people who are recipients of service in this city," Turner said.

Although he has played down his membership in the Republican Party during the mayoral campaign, Turner said he would be a strong advocate for the city among national leaders of the party, notably President Bush, who recruited Turner to the GOP.

Turner also defended his record as police chief, saying his appeals for more officers at a time when the homicide rate surged to record levels fell on deaf ears in the administration of Mayor Marion Barry.

He recalled testifying before Congress with Barry and being told by one House leader, "Chief, now you know you need more policemen."

"And here's my boss {Barry} sitting right next to me and he's kicking" Turner under the table, the former chief said.

"I think I've been an advocate," Turner added. He said police department files include "reports that are submitted to my boss requesting additional manpower, requesting an additional police district."

Turner said he intends to continue drawing a distinction between his roots in Washington and those of Dixon, the daughter of a retired D.C. Superior Court judge who was raised mostly by a grandmother, a low-ranking U.S. government employee, in middle-class circumstances.

"She obviously came from a more affluent family than my family," he said. "A lot of the necessities in life I didn't enjoy as a young man or as a kid.

"You know, my father never had a car when I was growing up," Turner said. "In fact, he couldn't buy a car till I joined the United States Marine Corps and could help him pay for one. So I was out working every day. I started working at a watermelon stand when I was 13, at Georgia Avenue and Girard, and have been working ever since then.

"I've been working a long time and haven't stopped yet, and I'm not going to stop," Turner said.