Tax-Credit Conflict Renewed as Senate Committee Considers Bill
Washington--The heated debate that marked the Senate Finance Committee's deliberations on the Reagan Administration's tuition tax-credit proposal last fall was rekindled last week, as the committee met to reconsider the bill before sending it to the Senate floor for a vote.
Senator Robert Dole, the Kansas Republican who is the committee chairman, announced his intention on Tuesday to complete action on the bill by the end of the week. But opponents of the measure brought up a series of amendments designed to stymie Senate passage, just as they did when the bill was considered last year.
"We just went through this last September," said Senator Dole. "It seemed like last week."
Committee aides said the measure was likely to be approved by the committee in spite of the stalling tactics.
The measure passed last year by a vote of 11 to 7, and the committee membership has not changed.
The opponents' amendments, however, were designed both to strengthen the bill's anti-discrimination provisions and to prompt opposition to it from the Reagan Administration and private-school lobbyists.
One-Half of Tuition Costs
The Administration's proposal would provide a nonrefundable credit equal to one-half of tuition costs, beginning at $100 in 1983, and rising to $300 by 1985. Those families earning no more than $40,000 would be eligible for full credit, and those earning no more than $60,000 would be eligible for a partial credit.
Among the amendments proposed early in the week was one sponsored by Senator John H. Chaffee, Republican of Rhode Island, to make the tax credit available in the form of a tax refund to those families whose income was so small that they incurred no tax liability.
The Senator said he thought "the whole bill is bad, but refundability would make it less worse."
The committee accepted that provision, just as they did last year. They also agreed to repeat a strategy suggested by Senator Dole to ensure that the bill reached the Senate floor: Because the "refundability'' provision would require the bill to be approved by the Appropriations Committee--rather than sent directly to the Senate floor--the members agreed to bring up "refundability" as a floor amendment.
"Realistically," said Republican Senator Robert Packwood of Oregon, "I think sending the bill to the Appropriations Committee would delay it further."
"It would take another five years," added Democratic Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey, in a refer-ence to the tuition tax-credit bill that was proposed in 1978.
Senator Chaffee conceded that his intention was to delay the bill's passage. "What is being proposed here is a radical departure for this nation," he said.
"You may think it is a good idea or a bad idea," responded Senator Daniel P. Moynihan, Democrat of New York, "but we are not creating a new system of education with this bill."
An amendment suggested by Senator David L. Boren, Democrat of Oklahoma--who opposes the tax-credit bill--would prohibit tax credits for tuition to schools whose policies had a discriminatory effect. The Administration's bill would deny credits for tuition to schools that had intentionally discriminated on the basis of race.
Senator Boren said the amendment repeated the "effects test" that was incorporated into the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act last year. But spokesmen for the Administration opposed the measure on the grounds that schools that had high tuition charges or admissions examinations might be accused of racial discrimination.
The Senators did agree to an amendment sponsored by Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, to grant partial credit only to parents with incomes up to $50,000.
Aides to several other senators said they planned to introduce other amendments throughout the week.