Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Political Squabble Costs U.S. Nearly $2 Billion in Taxes Rift between Clinton, Congress Allows Levies to Lapse

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Political Squabble Costs U.S. Nearly $2 Billion in Taxes Rift between Clinton, Congress Allows Levies to Lapse

Article excerpt

The government has lost nearly $2 billion this year because it isn't collecting industry taxes that died due to haggling between Congress and the White House. The losses are mounting daily.

Beneficiaries range from petroleum and chemical companies, no longer paying millions into the Superfund for toxic waste cleanup, to airline passengers saving a few bucks each after a federal tax on air tickets expired.

Two other environmental taxes have lapsed. One hit gasoline and other fuels to pay for pollution from leaking underground storage tanks, and the other targeted crude oil to finance cleanups of major oil spills.

The government stopped collecting Superfund taxes in January because lawmakers were unable to fashion a compromise on reauthorizing the toxic cleanup law acceptable to President Bill Clinton's administration.

The tax generated about $4 million a day, mainly from petroleum and chemical companies. That means almost $600 million in revenue has gone uncollected in the first five months of this year, the Environmental Protection Agency said.

A $3 billion surplus already exists in the Superfund account, enough to cover about 18 months of cleanup. EPA officials warn that the cushion is not large enough, and cleanup programs soon will be hindered.

"Fees collected from oil and chemical companies are essential to our ability to clean up toxic waste sites," EPA Administrator Carol Browner said. "The loss of these revenues is unfair and will soon jeopardize communities waiting for cleanup action."

Republican leaders like Rep. Bill Archer of Texas, chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, strongly oppose reinstating the tax until agreement is reached for overhauling the Superfund law.

Archer believes the program has not worked. His spokesman, James Wilcox, said Archer "will not institute any type of tax again until the issue is resolved."

Some lawmakers and tax experts say the failure to collect the taxes is making it harder to balance the budget, because both the airline and environmental cleanup funds are counted as revenue in calculating the deficit. In addition, Republicans in the House have pushed through legislation for temporary repeal of a 4. …

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