WASHINGTON -- Rep. Dan Rostenkowski said Friday he is still pushing to include permanent extensions of the tax exemptions for mortgage revenue bonds and small-issue industrial development bonds in the final tax bill being hammered out by House and senate conferees,
Tax legislation that the Illinois Democrat shepherded through the House in May would make permanent the two bond exemptions and six other tax breaks that expired on June 30, 1992. Those include a tax credit to firms that hire low-inome or disabled workers, and a credit for employer-provided educational assistance. The Senate bill would extend the eight tax breaks only through June 30. 1994.
Rostenkowski told reporters he is still fighting to make some of those tax breaks permanent, "but not all of them." When asked which are at the top of his list, he mentioned the credit for hiring low-income or disabled workers, also known as the targeted jobs tax credit.
Asked whether the mortgage bond exemption was on his list, Rostenkowski nodded and said, "I like that." When asked about the IDB exemption, he said, "I like that, too."
Rostenkowski has been tied to an ongoing investigation into a scandal involving the House Post Office. Capitol Hill observers say it is unclear whether that will affect his influence in the tax bill negotiations.
Rostenkowski, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, spoke after he met privately with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Daniel P. Moynihan, D-N.Y., to continue trying to resolve differences between their two tax bills. The two lawmakers are expected to resume negotiations tomorrow.
Rostenkowski said that even though he strongly supports the targeted jobs tax credit, it would be difficult to make it permanent because the credit is more expensive than the other expired provisions. He indicated that he is still pushing for permanent extensions for the mortgage bond and IDB exemptions in part because they would cost the federal government relatively little money.
Making the mortgage bond exemption permanent would cost the federal government $966 million in lost revenue over five years, according to figures released last week by the Joint Tax Committee. Those estimates also showed that a permanent IDB exemption would cost $252 million over the same period.
A permanent targeted jobs tax credit would cost the federal government $1.8 billion in lost revenue over five years, more than the two bond exemptions combined. Even more expensive is the credit for employer-provided educational assistance. It would cost $2.8 billion over five years.
The House bill contains President Clinton's proposal for a tax on the heat content of fuel to pay for tax incentives such as the eight permanent extensions, which were also included in Clinton's economic package.
Senate tax lawmakers rejected a BTU tax in favor of an increase in the federal transportation fuels tax. But because that tax hike would raise far less revenue, the Senate bill would extend the expired provisions only through June 30, 1994.
Also on Friday, Gene Sperling, a member of the White House National Economic Council, said he expects the administration will get "a significant amount" of its Proposed tax incentives in the final budget bill.
Office of Management and Budget Director Leon Panetta, who has been the administration's point man in the budget negotiations, "feels it's not going to, be too bad," despite recent reports that even priority incentives like the empowerment zones were being gutted, Sperling said.
"There is tremendous support for the empowerment zones around the country," and they are not likely to be dropped from the bill, Sperling said.
In another development on Friday, Rep. Mel Reynolds, D-111., said he is hoping the conferees will adopt his proposal for permitting private firms in certain demonstration areas to use tax-exempt financing and other tax incentives to clean up contaminated industrial sites for redevelopment.
Reynolds' bill would create a new category of exempt facility bond. called an environmental remediation bond, that could be issued to help private firms purchase and clean up the sites. Rostenkowski and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley testified before Congress recently in support of the proposal.
Reynolds' legislation is not included in either the House or Senate tax bill, but lobbyists have speculated that because Rostenkowski is backing the measure, it could wind up in the final version of the tax package. Patrice Hill contributed to this article.