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Congress, White House push to wrap up session.

Congress and the White House pushed to wrap up the first session of the 102nd Congress by completing action on a series of taxpayer-financed bailouts and emergency assistance to the Soviet Union, but little action on city and town priorities.

No action appeared likely to extend expiring municipal tax programs critical to affordable housing or economic development, nor did there appear any chance the White House or Congress would take any action this year to help communities respond to the national recession.

The Bush administration last week did announce it would send about $1.5 billion in aid to communities in the Soviet Union--in addition to the $2.5 billion already given so far this year. The federal aid is to be provided by borrowing and increasing the federal deficit or under a different, non-accountable set of budget rules than any assistance available to domestic communities.

The decision was announced as Senators Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and David Boren (D-Okla.) announced that they were seeking to revive a plan rejected by Congress to provide $1 billion in taxpayer funded economic conversion assistance to the Soviet Union before Congress' scheduled adjournment this weel. At the urging of U.S. Defense Secretary Richard Cheney, Congressional leaders had earlier rejected a Senate amendment to provide economic conversion assistance to American cities and towns. No effort has been made to revive any plan to help hard-hit U.S. cities and towns.

The Soviet federal deficit for this year is projected to be smaller than the U.S. federal deficit.

The announcement came as emergency assistance to American cities and towns to recover from fires, droughts, hurricanes and other natural disasters continued to be blocked by veto threats from the White House and confusion in the Congress.

The White House and Congressional leadership are hoping to complete action on a $150 billion S&L bailout bill, a $70 billion commercial bank bailout, a $291 billion defense spending bill, a multi-billion dollar "dire, emergency supplemental spending bill" to pay for the final U.S. installment for Operation Desert Storm, and reauthorization of the nation's expired surface transportation laws before adjourning for the year early Wednesday morning.

Congress is also expected to make a last ditch effort to reach agreement on anti-crime legislation, and a group of bipartisan Senators and Congressmen were attempting to push for a one year extension of the 12 expiring tax provisions, including tax exempt mortgage revenue and small issue idb bonds and low income housing and targeted jobs tax credits. Adamant opposition by the White House and cable industry appeared to have killed any chance for the Senate to act on NLC-supported cable legislation before next year.

Municipal Public Finance

With fewer than three days remaining, Sen. John Danforth (R-Mo.) and Reps. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Frank Guarini (D-N.J.), and Guy Vander Jagt (R-Mich.) were mounting a last ditch effort to extend all twelve expiring tax provisions for one year. Danforth organized over 75 senators to pledge they would oppose any amendment to such an extension bill. The three Congressmen were mounting a similar effort in the House.

The threat of extraneous, "Christmas tree" amendments to any extender bill has been one holdpup. The other holdup, however, is how to pay for the over $4 billion it would cost to extend all 12 expiring provisions for one year. So far no member of the House or Senate has been willing to publicly offer a plan, and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) has made clear that he will not schedule any action unless and until there is such a plan.

Cities and towns did receive good news on a separate fron last week when Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and Christopher Bond (R-Mo.) and Reps. Beryl Anthony (D-Ark.) and Don Sundquist (R-Tenn.) held a press conference to announce the formation of an Infrastructure and Public Finance Caucus. According to Anthony, the goal of the caucus is to "encourage Congress to work to provide state and local governments with the necessary tools to confront their infrastructure problems through the use and better access to tax exempt municipal bonds."

Emergency Assistance for American


The Senate was scheduled to take up its version of the Dire Urgent Supplemental Appropriations bill late last Friday in order to send it to conference with the House early this week.

The bill would fund over $7 billion in emergency assistance for domestic communities hard-hit by broughts or other natural disasters. It also includes the final $3.4 billion payment for Operation Desert Storm--leaving only Kuwait and Saudi Arabia with outstanding non-payments.

Under the Senate version, the president could pick and choose whatever portions of the bill he wished for funding, and those projects would automatically be deemed "emergencies" exempt from federal budget rules. There would be no funding for those portions not signed. Under the House version, if the president signed the bill, the entire amount would be made available, but the domestic assistance would trigger across-the-board cuts in all municipal programs, because it would not be deemed "emergency" assistance like the Gulf War borrowing. Therefore, it is unclear whether impacted American communities will receive any assistance--and, if they do, at what price.

More Bailouts

The fate of the unprecedented S&L bailout remained very uncertain as The Weekly went to press.
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Author:Shafroth, Frank
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Nov 25, 1991
Previous Article:Anti-crime conferees named.
Next Article:A call to fight back for America: NLC pushes campaign for reinvestment in cities and towns.

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