WASHINGTON – Nevada's tourist industry, airplane sightseeing companies in Hawaii, high speed Internet providers and soldiers in the war on terror lost out when lawmakers stripped all special interest provisions from the tax bill.
Tax measures often are filled with provisions to benefit specific groups and businesses, and the Senate version started out that way — with members even hailing their success in news releases.
Senators subsequently dropped all those inserts and the House version never included them — part of the effort to avoid a prolonged debate.
Former Rep. Bill Archer (search), a Texas Republican who headed the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee (search), said he couldn't recall any other time when all the special interest provisions were dropped. Archer said President Bush had a lot to do with it.
"The president was strongly urging them to have a bill on his desk before the Memorial Day recess," Archer said. "The desire to get it done in order to help the economy as soon as possible was a big pressure point."
Sen. George Allen, R-Va., announced May 15 that his proposed tax relief for military personnel serving in the war on terror "will soon be on its way to President George W. Bush for signature."
The announcement was premature, although his spokesman, Mike Waldron, said the senator planned to attach the measure to another bill. Other sponsors of dropped measures, and lobbyists too, are certain to seek out other legislative avenues.
Among the deletions were tax breaks already in the law and set to expire on Dec. 31. These provisions currently benefit producers of energy from wind and poultry litter; employers who hire individuals on public assistance; corporations contributing computer equipment for education; companies whose oil and gas wells are depleted; consumers who buy clean-fuel vehicles; teachers purchasing up to $250 in school supplies; those who have medical savings accounts; and companies involved in environmental cleanup.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., sought to boost tourism by making business travel expenses tax deductible for spouses and dependents.
"This will mean more people flying, eating out and shipping while at convention destinations like Nevada," the assistant Democratic leader had said.
Hawaii's senior Democratic senator, Daniel Inouye, said he was pleased to have crafted language to exempt sightseeing helicopters and fixed-wing planes from the air transportation tax. These flights are popular not only in Hawaii, but in Alaska, California, Arizona and New York City, the senator said.
Wholesalers of domestic distilled spirits would have received a tax credit from a measure sponsored by Sen. Jim Bunning, a Kentucky Republican whose state is known for its bourbon.
A Montana Republican, Conrad Burns, teamed up with Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia to provide tax incentives to high speed Internet providers who extend networks into rural communities.
Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, a Democratic presidential contender, would have provided help for growers affected by citrus canker disease.
The Senate also deleted revenue raising items, among them a proposal to raise taxes on Americans living and working abroad.
Republican senators, who prefer to speak about tax cuts rather than increases, proposed the hike reluctantly and were eager to jettison it.
Former Rep. Bill Frenzel, a Republican from Minnesota and now a scholar at the Brookings Institution think tank, said the House deserves credit for sending the Senate a bill without the ornaments.
"They (House members) didn't get a chance to play," Frenzel said, and would have insisted on adding their own items if the Senate had not stripped special interest provisions from the bill.
"There's always the implied threat that 'We sent you a clean bill. Pass it or we want a piece of the action,'" he said.