Congress is giving less than a rousing response to a bipartisan panel's suggestion that taxes be raised on the elderly, the rich and even middle-income families to improve the plight of children.
A list of recommendations unveiled Monday by the National Commission on Children would cost $56 billion annually over the next decade. But Congress is working under rules that any new spending be offset by a tax increase or a reduction in other programs."If I believed Congress would agree to offset the revenue loss by cutting spending, I'd be the first person in line to co-sponsor this legislation," said Rep. Bill Archer of Texas, senior Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee.
The commission also proposed raising taxes on gasoline, tobacco and alcohol; imposing a national sales tax, eliminating the space station and repealing farm subsidies.
Most of the money - $40 billion - would be used to finance a $1,000-a-year government payment through the tax system to every child under 19. That would replace the present tax exemption for children, which is worth less to the poor than to most higher-income families.
Other proposals range from a government-insured benefit for children whose absent parents won't support them, to thoroughly reforming the nation's schools, to encouraging television stations to exercise restraint in accepting advertising on children's programs.
Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., the Ways and Means Committee chairman, offered no comment on the package. Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell, D-Maine, volunteered only that the $1,000-a-year tax credit squares with his idea of fairness. Sen. Albert Gore, D-Tenn., noted the major proposal is similar to the $800 tax credit for children that he proposed last month.
Underlying the report is the fact that one of every five children is living in poverty.
"As a moral and caring people, we can no longer tolerate preventable damage that wastes the lives and potential of so many of our children and families," the 34-member commission said in its report to Congress.
Commission members were unanimous in calling for the $1,000-a-child credit but could not agree on how to finance the entire $56 billion-a-year program.