CONFERENCE REPORT ON H.R. 2014, TAXPAYER RELIEF ACT OF 1997
(Extensions of Remarks - August 01, 1997)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E1604]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




      CONFERENCE REPORT ON H.R. 2014, TAXPAYER RELIEF ACT OF 1997

                                 ______
                                 

                          HON. DAVID E. SKAGGS

                              of colorado

                    in the house of representatives

                        Thursday, July 31, 1997

  Mr. SKAGGS. Mr. Speaker, I am voting for this conference report. Its 
provisions for education and tax relief for families with children, in 
particular, will make a difference in the lives of millions of hard-
working Americans.
  Many of the worst aspects of the House-passed bill, which I opposed, 
have been removed or improved, and the bill includes many other 
provisions that will benefit our country. So, on balance, I have 
decided that it deserves to be supported. That said, it is not without 
faults. It includes some things that I don't like, and there are other 
things that I would have liked to have seen included.
  To begin with, the bill deserves support because it will help make 
education more affordable for millions of our people. It includes tax 
credits for the tuition costs of college students as well as graduate 
students and workers who are continuing to pursue lifelong learning. It 
will allow people who have gone into debt to finance their educations 
to deduct some of the interest charges on their student loans.
  In addition, the bill extends until June 20, 2000, the tax exclusion 
for employer-provided educational assistance. I would have preferred 
making this permanent, but this is a great improvement over the House 
bill, which extended the exclusion only for the rest of this year.
  Further, this bill dropped the pernicious section of the House-passed 
bill that would have taxed tuition discounts earned by graduate 
students who serve as teaching assistants and the tuition discounts 
provided to families of school employees. That very shortsighted and 
unwise provision was one of the worst features of the House bill, and I 
am very glad that the conferees did not include it in the conference 
report.
  The conference report also will help our schools and colleges in 
several important ways. It will encourage corporations to donate up-to-
date computer technology and equipment; will give a tax credit for 
purchases of bonds issued by local governments where the business 
community is also assisting the schools; and it will repeal the limit 
on qualified 501(c)(3) bonds used by colleges, universities, and other 
charitable institutions.
  The environment also will benefit from the conference report. Unlike 
the House-passed bill, the conference report includes tax incentives to 
help accelerate the cleanup of contaminated areas in economically 
distressed areas. This so-called brownfields provision has great 
promise for improving both the environment and the economy in these 
areas.
  Science and health will benefit as well, because the conference 
report extends expiring research tax credits and makes permanent the 
tax credit for research and development of so-called orphan drugs that 
are desperately needed, but for which the potential market is 
relatively small.
  And the conference report's provisions related to Amtrak provide a 
foundation upon which it may be possible to build an improved and 
financially sound national rail passenger system.
  Also, of course, there are some provisions that will benefit families 
in more general, less-targeted ways. For me, the most positive is the 
$500 child credit, which will provide a significant financial boost to 
the country's most hard-pressed working families. Its benefits will be 
distributed reasonably fairly--especially as compared with the original 
House-passed bill, which would have excluded many of the low-income 
working families to whom this credit will be most helpful.
  The conference report's changes in estate taxes are also better than 
those in the House-passed bill, because they focus more directly on 
family-owned farms and businesses, as well as phasing in what's 
essentially an inflation adjustment to the basic tax-exemption amount.
  The capital gains provisions are improved but still troublesome. They 
of course are inherently much more beneficial to those with the 
resources to make large-scale investments than to those of more limited 
means.
  Also, in combination with other provisions like those involving 
IRA's, they have the potential for making this balanced budget tax bill 
the cause of renewed and greatly increased deficits in a few years. For 
me, this is a serious prospect. I recall Senator Howard Baker's 
description of Reaganomics as a ``riverboat gamble'', and I recall that 
the payoff of that tax-cutting spree was trillions of new national 
debt.
  I am not eager for another spin of that roulette wheel, and if I was 
convinced that the risk this time was as great as it was then, I would 
not support this bill. But this is a more modest bet, and a more 
carefully-drawn bill. I do think that we have learned from that 
experience, and I think President Clinton and his administration were 
able, in the negotiations that produced this conference report, to 
notably reduce the odds on repeating it. In short, while there's still 
a serious risk of renewed deficits, they've been lessened--and can be 
avoided if we will recognize them and are ready to take corrective 
actions in the future in the way Democrats did in 1993.
  Mr. Speaker, I did not come early or quickly to a conclusion about 
this bill. But I have decided that its strengths outweigh its 
weaknesses, and its promises outweigh its risks--and my vote is for its 
passage.

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