Washington Outlook

Senate Panel Cancels Action on Community Renewal Bill

by Larry Jones
October 9, 2000

After four failed attempts to get members of the Senate Finance Committee to refrain from offering as many as 72 amendments (many of which were unrelated) to the Community Renewal proposal (H.R. 4923), Senator William Roth (DE) decided to cancel the final markup of the legislation scheduled for September 28. The proposal, which includes many U.S. Conference of Mayors priorities, would provide $38.8 billion in tax credits and other incentives over the next ten years to spur economic growth in economically distressed communities.

The Conference supports provisions that would: allow Amtrak to issue $10 billion in tax credits bonds to expand and improve its high-speed rail lines; create 30 new renewal communities which would be eligible for a number of tax breaks; create a new market tax credit program; increase the annual low income housing tax credits; create a new historic home preservation tax credit; extend and expand brownfields tax credits; and accelerate the increase in the private activity bond volume limits so it would be fully effective in 2001 instead of 2007.

The measure cleared the House two months ago and is supported by President Clinton, but many members on the Senate Finance Committee withheld support for the bill as leverage to win support for their amendments. Many saw the bill as the last vehicle this session to add tax breaks they have been trying to move throughout the year. The original Senate bill started out with a price tag of $28.8 billion and grew rapidly to a $38.8 billion revised proposal before Senator Roth became fearful that the cost would grow continually out of control. When Senators Richard Bryan (NV), Phil Gramm (TX), Kent Conrad (ND), Frank Murkowski (AK) and others insisted on offering additional amendments, Senator Roth decided to cancel committee mark up. Instead, he introduced his revised proposal as a new bill, S. 3152, on October 3. He intends to use the measure as a basis for negotiating a final deal with the House. Senator Roth, Speaker Dennis Hastert (IL) and other leaders in the House are optimistic that there still is a good chance for passing a community renewal bill before Congress adjourns.

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