Adoption Credit Included in Minimum Wage Bill
WASHINGTON (AP) _ House and Senate negotiators agreed Wednesday on provisions of legislation raising the minimum wage and cutting business taxes, clearing the way for final congressional approval by the weekend.
The deal, which both House and Senate negotiators have approved, would include a $5,000 credit to defray adoption expenses, said House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Archer, R-Texas.
Parents adopting children younger than 18 could subtract up to $5,000 in adoption expenses from their income taxes. Unused portions of the credit could be carried forward for up to five years.
Meanwhile, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said Democrats would reluctantly accept an Oct. 1 effective date for an increase in the minimum wage. Kennedy had been pushing for Labor Day, Sept. 2.
The wage would increase, initially, from $4.25 per hour to $4.75 and, on Sept. 1, 1997, to $5.15. Delaying the initial raise by a month, Kennedy said, will cost a full-time minimum-wage worker $80.
Negotiators from the Senate were expected to sign off on the tax portion of the bill Wednesday night. GOP leaders plan to send the bill to President Clinton before Congress leaves town this weekend for its four-week August recess.
Aides said the tax breaks total roughly $8.6 billion over five years and $21.4 billion over 10 years. The estimated cost to business of the minimum wage increase for more than 10 million workers is $3.4 billion a year.
``We will make it easier for small-business men and women to hire, to expand, to modernize,″ Archer said.
House and Senate negotiators previously had agreed to a provision allowing homemakers to contribute up to $2,000 to Individual Retirement Accounts, the same as working spouses. One-income couples are now limited to a maximum $2,250 contribution while couples in which both spouses work can contribute up to $4,000.
Negotiators also were in accord on improved equipment write-offs for small businesses and a new kind of pension plan for firms employing 100 or fewer workers.
On Wednesday, they agreed to restore, through the end of the year, the 10 percent excise tax on airline tickets and other aviation taxes that lapsed at the start of 1996.
In a decision protested by Democrats, the negotiators also agreed to repeal a 1993 measure aimed at preventing large companies with offshore operations from avoiding taxes by keeping their profits in foreign accounts. That will cost the treasury $427 million over 11 years.
Companies pushing for repeal include Amway Corp., Intel Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., Novell Inc., Microsoft Corp., Johnson & Johnson and Schering-Plough Corp.
Republicans ``are so reluctant to give the little folks a little break but so eager to give the big folks a big break,″ said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.
Other provisions of the compromise would:
_Extend the $5,250 exemption for employer-paid tuition through May 1997 for undergraduate courses and through June 1996 for graduate-level courses.
_Extend credits from July 1, 1996, through May 31, 1997, to encourage corporate research and experimentation, the development of drugs to treat rare diseases and contributions of stock to charitable foundations.
_Phase out over 10 years a credit for manufacturers in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories. The Senate version would have continued part of the credit indefinitely for firms currently receiving it.
_Retroactively relieve insurance companies of liability for mingling pension money with their general accounts but provide that the more stringent standards of federal pension law would apply from now forward.
_Drop provisions by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., that would have protected widows and widowers from pension cuts after their spouses die.
_Tax punitive damages and damages for non-physical injuries. Legal settlements compensating for physical injuries would continue untaxed.
Negotiators decided to drop provisions taxing wealthy people who renounce their citizenship and include them, instead, in health-insurance reform legislation.
In addition to the adoption credit, negotiators agreed to add three provisions not in either the original House or Senate bills:
_A provision by Rep. Sam Gibbons, D-Fla., tightening rules on wealthy individuals who seek to avoid taxes by establishing trusts overseas.
_Extension of the Generalized System of Preferences, which waives tariffs on imports from developing countries, through May 1997.
_A six-month reprieve for 1.2 million businesses required to begin electronically depositing withheld payroll taxes with the Internal Revenue Service by Jan. 1.