D.C. Council Chairman John A. Wilson said yesterday he will offer his own plan to reduce the city's $300 million deficit that includes a $30 million tax increase and a one-day-a-week furlough of all D.C. government employees for five months.
Wilson for the first time raised concerns about Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon's deficit-reduction proposals, saying it is a mistake to count on Congress to provide emergency aid or to lay off workers this year as a last resort.
The city would be required to pay severance to any employee who is dismissed, and "we don't have any money to do that," said Wilson, who has said that he would take an equal role with the mayor in city budget and financial issues.
As an alternative, Wilson said he is completing work on a plan that would raise $30 million in miscellaneous taxes and shave at least $60 million more from the deficit with government-wide furloughs for five months.
The remainder of the package, he said, would resemble the $130 million in agency spending cuts that Dixon already has ordered. He also supports her plan to scrap $63 million in planned pay raises for D.C. employees this year.
"I do not support a pay raise for anybody," Wilson said.
Wilson offered few details of his plan during an interview, but said he hopes to submit it to the council next week. "I think this will be difficult to get passed," Wilson said. "But it's the only way to solve our problems. Everyone is going to have to participate in the suffering."
On Wednesday, Dixon told Washington Post editors and reporters that if the city fails to win $100 million in emergency funds from Congress this year, she would consider layoffs or could enact a three-day workweek for some employees.
Paul Costello, who was appointed this week as Dixon's director of communications, said yesterday that the mayor intends to concentrate on obtaining congressional aid before she discusses furloughs or a tax increase.
"She still considers both of those only as a last resort," he said.
Costello also said that Dixon does not believe Wilson's proposal will send mixed signals to Capitol Hill. "There's going to be different approaches . . . everything is welcome," he said. "We're just beginning to walk this road."
But union leaders reacted with dismay to Wilson's proposal, saying that it seemed as if he and Dixon were underestimating the hardships that extensive furloughs would impose on thousands of city workers.
"I think it's totally unrealistic," said Ed Kornegay, president of Teamsters Local 1714, which represents correctional workers. "I kind of resent everyone jumping on city employees. We have got to find another way."
Wilson said he expected union opposition to his plan, but stressed that if the council backs away from ordering furloughs, it will have to make layoffs. "I intend to tell the unions that would be our only other choice," Wilson said.
Congressional leaders have told Dixon that the city's chances of receiving $100 million in federal aid this year are slim. But even if the money is appropriated, Wilson said he would prefer to use it to revive pay raises and to compensate for probable overspending this year in the city's corrections and police departments. Police overtime costs, he said, are likely to soar now because of the security demands that the Persian Gulf war has created.
While providing few details of his tax plan, Wilson said he would not recommend raising personal income taxes or property taxes. "But any other tax you can think of might be used," he said.
This was the second time this week that Wilson, who became chairman Jan. 2, has sought to give the council a stronger hand in resolving the city's budget crisis. On Monday, Wilson proposed that each council member and the council's 172 employees accept 10-day furloughs to help save money. The council agreed.
Wilson also said yesterday that he was "annoyed" by remarks Dixon made during her meeting with The Post. She vowed to eliminate the city's Office of Drug Control Policy, and contrasted that example with the furloughs that the council approved this week.
"We're making permanent cuts," she said. "Ours is not a one-time furlough."
Wilson said that comment suggested that the council is not serious about curbing the city's deficit. "And that's ridiculous," he said. "I don't like what I'm reading between the lines. I expect people to be fair."