IT'S NOT EVERY day that a wide-ranging group of local businesses, area members of Maryland and Virginia congressional delegations, and a bipartisan group in the Senate and House can come together to embrace essentially a local idea. But Rising Tide, a District-based initiative to spur business investment in the nation's capital, seems to have attracted such support across a broad public and private front.
District officials are excited by the possibility. The initiative neither draws on the city treasury nor infringes on D.C. self-government. But through tax-exempt federal bonds and wage tax credits, which a business would qualify to receive for five years if it invested at least $25 million and employed at least 400 people in the Washington Enterprise Zone, the District could gain $1 billion in private investments and 10,000 new jobs. At least that is the estimate attributed to the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, which puts the five-year cost of the resulting tax expenditure at $238 million.
Unlike the District's enterprise zone, which offers incentives to small and mid-sized business, the proposed Rising Tide enterprise zone aims to attract major corporate investment with federal tax incentives. Advocates point to the privately financed $200 million MCI Center as an example of the substantial commitment businesses can and will make in the nation's capital if the city is able to offer a major competitive incentive package. "Rising Tide could remedy that gap," wrote the Greater Washington Board of Trade in endorsing the initiative.
The measure's supporters initially had hoped Rising Tide would be included in the tax bill, now vetoed by the president. They would like to see it included in any future tax bill negotiated between the Republican-led Congress and the White House. It remains to be seen whether another tax bill emerges this session. But the Rising Tide public-private initiative offers an opportunity that advocates of an accelerated revitalization in the nation's capital can hardly ignore. It deserves consideration by the president and Congress.