The House Ways and Means Committee voted yesterday a major stiffening of President Carter's "windfall profits" tax that would boost the tax bite on the oil industry to more than 1 1/4 times what the White House had proposed.
By a 22-14 vote, the panel agreed to raise the rate at which the "windfall" tax is levied to 70 percent of the eligible extra revenues the industry reaps from decontrol rather than 50 percent as Carter had sought.
It also voted to continue permanently a special "upper-tier" category of taxation that Carter had wanted to phase out between 1985 and 1990-a move that would further increase the tax burden on the industry here.
The action, which came on an amendment by Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D.Ill.), constituted the strongest step the committee has taken to toughen the mild tax that Carter proposed last April 26.
Together with other changes, the amendment would raise the measure's total tax bite to $6.5 billion in 1982, compared to the $4.9 billion that Carter had proposed-or $26.5 billion over five years, up from $20.6 billion before.
The panel also turned back a bid by oil-state legislators to exempt all newly discovered oil from the tax. Instead, committee members approved a compromise amendment that eased the tax on new oil only slightly.
Approval of the Rostenkowski amendment came as a surprise to most observers. Rep. Al Ullman (D-Ore.), the panel's chairman, had outlined a plan to raise the tax rate to 60 percent, and that was expected to pass.
However, committee sources coninteneded in part to give the House an extra bargaining chip in negotiations with the Senate, whose Finance Committee is expected to try to weaken the bill.
The Ways and Means Committee yesterday voted down, 21-11, a bid by a group of liberals to boost the rate to 85 percent. It also defeated, 18-16, a move to tax newly discovered Alaskan oil.
The 70 percent tax rate the panel approved yesterday would apply to all categories of oil expcept for newly discovered oil selling at a price between $17 and $26 a barrel.
As part of its alternative to the exemptions proposed by the oil-state legislators, the committee voted to limit the tax rate on this category of newly discovered oil to 50 percent, to encourage new exploration.
Moreover, the $17 to $26 a barrel limits would be adjusted upward each year by two percentage points more than the previous year's inflation rate-bringing the $26 figure to an estimated $44 a barrel by 1990.
Energy Department experts estimated yesterday the proposal would boost likely oil production by some 160,000 barrels a day by 1985 over and above the 940,000 barrel a day increase that Carter's proposal might have spurred.
However, the impact of the amendment on the total tax bite of the windfall legislation still uncertain. Experts said it could range from negligible to several hundred million dollars, depending on technical definitions.
The amendment the panel approved making the "upper-tier" category permanent effectively means that there will be no gradual reduction, as Carter had planned, in the tax bite on oil discovered since 1972.
Carter's original proposal carved out three "tiers" in which oil discovered before 1972, oil discovered since 1972 and newly discovered oil would be taxed at varying levels as they moved from controlled prices to world prices.
The pre-1972 oil was to be taxed as its price rose above $6 a barrel, with the tax phasing out in 1983. The oil discovered since 1972 would be taxed when it reached $13 a barrel, phasing out in 1990. The third tier was $16.
Yesterday's actions would block the phaseout of the $13 a barrel category and continue the tax permanently. It also would raise the $16 benchmark for "third-tier" oil to $17 a barrel.
Approval of the alternative to the oil-state legislators' proposal was a major victory for the administration. The rejected amendment, sponsored by Rep. James R. Jones (D-Okla), would have weakened Carter's bill.