San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros, president of the National League of Cities, pledged yesterday at the league's annual meeting here to "fight at every hedgerow" to save the federal revenue-sharing program until there is "incontrovertible evidence that it is dead."
Revenue sharing, a $4 billion-a-year Nixon-era program of aid to municipalities, is to expire in September, and the Senate has voted to kill it. But mayors are lobbying furiously and a House Government Operations subcommittee recently voted to reauthorize it for another three years.
"In the absence of revenue sharing, 25 percent of the members of the league will have to raise taxes," Cisneros said, describing the process as a "shifting of the tax burden from one level of government to another -- the level least able to raise revenues."
He said, "To reduce the deficit, we are willing to let other programs go by the board. This is not an organization that says don't cut our programs and don't raise revenues either."
The league set a list of priorities among the more than 50 programs proposed for elimination in 1987: revenue sharing, Community Development Block Grants, Urban Development Action Grants, the municipal clean-water program, public transportation and highways, low-income housing and the Job Training Partnership Act.
The league's board also urged an increase in federal taxes, saying, "Tax reform should not be revenue-neutral and we recommend that at least a portion of new federal revenue gained be used to reduce the federal deficit."
But mayors across the political spectrum reserved their most emphatic statements for the resuscitation of revenue sharing. Cleveland Mayor George V. Voinovich, a Republican whose city is described as having received the most federal aid per capita under the Reagan administration, said he would have to seek an increase in local taxes if the program died. "The revenue sharing loss is $14 million for us. That translates into 550 jobs," he said.
Rep. Jack Brooks (D-Tex.), chairman of the Government Operations Committee, said in an interview that revenue sharing "violates the cardinal principle of accountability -- the simple but vital idea that those officials who spend money on government programs should be responsible for raising the revenues to pay for those programs."
Citing the deficit, he said that "it is clear that the federal government simply doesn't have the revenue to share."