The House Ways and Means Committee couldn't decide yesterday whether or how to give back to consumers the $14 billion a year in oil taxes it voted Tuesday, and it put off a vote until next week.
Meanwhile, a House Banking subcommittee approved, 21 to 0, a voluntary home insulation program with grants and loan subsidies for lower-income families. A Commerce subcommittee has voted to require a home-owner to insulate by 1982 before selling his or her home. If the two parent committees approve the conflicting plans, the House would have to choose which course to follow.
The oil tax would be phased in three annual steps to force the price of domestic crude oil up to last April's world price of $13.50 a 42-gallon barrel to encourage conservation. The administration proposed that most of this be rebated to consumers on a per capita basis, which would amount to about $55 a year to every person in the United States when the tax is fully effective.
The administration also proposed a special rebate of about $1 billion of the revenue to residents who use home heating oil, which is more expensive than natural gas, the most commonly used fuel. This would have amounted to a rebate of about $4 per year which the customer would never see because it would simply have offset an increase in the monthly fuel bill. The committee rejected this special rebate, 20 to 4, on grounds it gave special preference to the Northeast, which relies heavily on fuel oil, but gave no special treatment for other uses of oil products.
President Carter's energy plan is a series of taxes and rebates designed to reduce the use of oil and push consumers to use the nation's abundant supplies of coal.
Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) and others said it appeared contradictory to impose taxes to reduce the use oil and then turn around and give the money back. The administration felt the money should be given back in order not to shrink purchasing power and throw the economy into a tailspin. It apparently felt that once the price of oil was raised, consumers would use rebates for other purposes.
Rep. Barber B. Conable (R-N.Y.) and Rep. William M. Brodhead (D-Mich.) suggested that the revenue be used to finance tax revision.
Rep. Charles Vanik (Ohio) said the money should be refunded in one lump rebate at the end of each year so the people would realize they were getting it back. Rep. Sam Gibbons (D-Fla.) said it should be dribbled out in the form of lowered withholding from weekly paychecks so as not to have a shock effect on the money supply.
Conable finally suggested that no consensus had appeared and that the issue should be postponed until Monday when the committee will have completed tentative votes on all tax parts of the Carter package.
The Banking subcommittee, like the Commerce subcommittee, agreed that local utilities should inform customers of the benefits of insulation and advise them on their needs, but should not install insulation unless there was a shortage of suppliers. The subcommittee also cautioned that the insulation program should start slowly because production is at capacity and will need time to expand.
The subcommittee approved $585 million over four years to give residents with annual income of less than $6,200 grants of up to $800 to insulate their homes. Labor would be performed free by public service job holders. This would insulate about 1.2 million homes.
The subcommittee also voted a loan subsidy program for homeowners with income between $6,200 and $12,600. The borrower would pay not over 7 per cent interest. The government would pay the rest up to a 12 per cent ceiling on a short-term home repair loan. This would help insulate 2 million homes. The government could also make money available for loans in credit-short areas for higher income owners, but with no subsidy.
The House Banking Committee will act on th proposal Friday.