WASHINGTON - The Senate urban aid tax bill remains stalled and may not come to a vote this week, Majority Leader George Mitchell said yesterday.
Prompt action on the measure is critical because Congress is scheduled to adjourn on Oct. 3. Once the Senate acts, lawmakers will need time to reconcile the measure with urban aid legislation that passed the House in July.
But Sen. Mitchell, D-Maine, told reporters the measure continues to be bogged down by an enormous number of amendments that senators want to add. "I don't know if we'll get to it this week," he said.
He did say, however, that the bill remains a high priority of the Senate leadership. Sen. Mitchell met Friday with Minority Leader Robert Dole, R-Kan., and Finance Committee Chairman Lloyd Bentsen, D-Tex., and "we agreed to try to move the bill," he said. He added he is hoping senators will be willing to limit the amount of amendments and debate.
"We'll see if we can get time agreements," Sen. Mitchell said.
Debate began on the tax bill Aug. 11, but the Senate adjourned for a four-week recess Aug. 13 without completing action. During the recess, which ended Sept. 8, a list apparently prepared by the Finance Committee began quietly circulating around Capitol Hill that shows 57 senators are considering offering a total of more than 100 amendments to the tax bill.
The proposals include one by Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., to spur issuance of environmental infrastructure bonds and another by Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, to loosen restrictions on small-issue industrial development bonds.
The tax package before the Senate would renew the tax exemptions for mortgage revenue bonds and small-issue industrial development bonds and extend them through Dec. 31, 1993. Those and about 10 other tax breaks included in the bill expired June 30.
But the centerpiece of the legislation is a proposal to create enterprise zones, economically depressed areas where tax breaks would be offered to start-up companies or firms willing to relocate. One of those incentives would be a new type of exempt-facility bond issued to make loans to businesses in the zones.
The bonds would be bank-eligible, regardless of the size of the issuer. and 50% of each issue would be exempt from the private-activity bond volume cap. The per business limit on the amount of bonds issued would be $1 million.
The House urban aid bill contains a slightly different enterprise zone plan. Instead of a new type of bond, the bill proposes easing curbs on qualified redevelopment bonds so that they could be issued in enterprise zones. The legislation would make the tax exemptions for mortgage bonds and small-issue IDBs permanent.