House Passes Education-Savings Bill, But Veto Promised

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The House passed a compromise plan to create "education savings accounts" last week, but the measure quickly drew a renewed promise of a veto from President Clinton.

The Senate this week was expected to approve the bill, which would provide tax breaks for private and public education expenses. If the Senate passes the bill, it will continue tensions between Congress and the White House over a proposal that Republicans believe would resonate with voters.

Mr. Clinton dashed Republicans' hopes of winning his signature on the bill when he sent a tersely written June 16 letter to Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., saying the savings-account plan "would disproportionately benefit the highest-income taxpayers."

The 225-197 House vote last Thursday, with 12 Democrats voting for and 10 Republicans voting against the measure, would not be enough to override a veto.

The Democrats who opposed the measure pushed for an alternative plan sponsored by Rep. Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., the ranking minority member on the House Ways and Means Committee, that would have spent the estimated $1.6 billion in tax-savings dollars on school construction. That measure failed, 223-194.

By axing the education savings accounts, however, Mr. Clinton would likely forfeit one of his education priorities: the creation of a new literacy program aimed at enhancing the reading skills of elementary school pupils.

Reading-Provision Link

The proposed Reading Excellence Act is one of several education measures attached to the savings-account legislation. Under the terms of previously passed legislation, a reading program must be approved by July 1 to receive its $210 million allocation in the fiscal 1998 appropriations bill. Otherwise, the money will go to special education, a gop priority. With only days left, Congress is unlikely to meet that deadline.

Supporters of the savings-account plan contend that it would benefit millions of Americans. The House-Senate conference report on the measure would create "education IRAs" in which parents, other family members or friends, businesses, and other organizations could contribute up to $2,000 a year tax-free toward education costs. ("Hill Negotiatiors Unveil Revised Education-Tax-Breaks Bill," June 17, 1998.)

But the Department of Education estimated that families with children in public schools would save only $7 a year in taxes under the plan. Families with children in private schools would fare slightly better, saving $37 each year, the department said.

Vol. 17, Issue 41, Page 28

Published in Print: June 24, 1998, as House Passes Education-Savings Bill, But Veto Promised
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