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Education Tax-Savings Bill Stalls in Senate

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Washington

Savings incentives to help parents and other sponsors pay private school tuition stalled in Congress last week as senators opposed to vouchers continued a filibuster against them.

The K-12 accounts would allow interest to accumulate free of federal taxes, encouraging parents, relatives, and employers to save money for children's educational needs ranging from tutoring to private school costs, supporters said.

Opponents, however, likened the tax incentives to vouchers and argued that they would draw students and money away from public schools.

But the amendment's sponsor said in the Nov. 4 debate that the number of children who would change schools because of the accounts would be statistically insignificant.

Most families would spend the money to supplement their children's education in public schools, said Sen. Paul Coverdell, R-Ga.

"In the overall picture, you are essentially bringing new dollars that don't have to be taxed, new dollars that people are saving themselves," he said.

Mr. Coverdell's plan was initially included in a tax bill passed last summer, but was removed after President Clinton threatened to veto the bill because of it.

GOP leaders promised to make the bill a priority this fall, and the House bill passed it before it was bogged down in the Senate. ("House Approves GOP's School Savings Plan; Budget Gets Extension," Oct. 29, 1997.)

Procedural Block

Last week's procedural move by 43 Democrats and one Republican effectively blocks the bill from passing Congress this year.

Two Democrats voted with 54 Republicans to cut off debate to allow the Senate to vote on the measure.

That total fell short of the 60-vote majority needed to stop a filibuster.

An attempt the week before to end the debate in the Senate also failed.

Even so, the bill's main backer remained optimistic.

"Come February 1998, this proposal will be back before us, and we will ultimately secure passage of it," Mr. Coverdell said.

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