WASHINGTON - Municipal bond proponents were treated last week to a gold mine of information about the Clinton administration's views on tax-exempts.

The market had always known President Clinton favors municipal bonds, but not to what degree. Clinton's few bond proposals in his tax package didn't indicate how far he would be willing to go in rolling back bond restrictions in the Tax Reform Act of 1986. But thanks to a hearing in a House Ways and Means subcommittee last Tuesday, it's now clear there are limits to what the administration will support. The Clinton White House is willing to move farther than the Reagan and Bush administrations in easing municipal bond curbs, but it is not prepared to eviscerate the 1986 tax law's restrictions on tax-exempts. At least, that's the impression left by the Treasury Department's assistant secretary for tax policy, Leslie Samuels. He was appearing before the Ways and Means Committee's subcommittee on select revenue measures to offer the administration's views on over 100 tax-related proposals.

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