Officials of Washington State are mounting a campaign to save a program that has financed 21,000 low-interest mortgages over the past 10 years.

The U.S. House of Representatives has reauthorized the mortgage revenue bond program as part of the budget bill, but the Senate has not. The final decision is up to a Senate-House committee.

"We're going to move heaven and earth to save the MRB program," said Skip Chilberg, chairman of the Washington State Housing Finance Commission.

For First-Time Buyers

The state's plan requires congressional approval because interest paid to investors buying the bonds, which finance loans for first-time homebuyers, is exempt from federal income tax.

Congress voted last year to permanently extend the program as part of the tax bill President Bush vetoed. This year, President Clinton proposed making the program permanent. The House again voted in favor, but the Senate decided to use the money for other programs.

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