Prospects for passage this year of tuition tax credit legislation got a substantial boost yesterday when House Ways andd Means Committee Chairman Al Ullman (D-Ore.) agreed to allow a vote on the measure.
His reversal under pressure was an important victory for supporters of the popular tuition aid legislation, which the Carter administration opposes as wasteful.
Tuition tax credit bills have passed the Senate several times in recent years, but Ullman has always pigeonholed them rather than let the House vote on them.
But this time Ullman said he has scheduled committee hearings for next Monday and Tuesday to consider a compromise tuition credit proposal by Rep. Charles A. Vanik (D-Ohio). The chairman said he would vote for the Vanik bill in committee, then oppose it on the floor.
Although he still opposes such legislation personally, Ullman said, he believes there is now so much support for it among House members that "we have an obilgation to get something out of committee."
The administration is crying to block enactment of the tuition credit bill by offering a rival plan that would expand existing federal college scholarships to include middle-income students as well as poorer ones.
The Vanik bill would allow parents to reduce the taxes they owe by up to $100 in tuition expenses for each child in a private elementary or high school and $250 for each son or daughter in college - somewhat less than the amounts in a comparable plan approved by the Senate Finance Committee.
It was not immediatley clear whether Ways and Means would actually approve the Vanik plan next week. However, some committee sources speculated that Vanik's proposal might end up as a "minimum," with the panel more likely to make it more generous than to defeat it.
The Carter proposal has been approved already by the House Education and Labor Committee, but has been help up in the Rules Committee mainly in a dispute over whether to allow a floor amendment that would give members a choice between the scholarships and the tax credit approved already by the House Education and Labor Committee, but has been help up in the Rules Committee mainly in a dispute over whether to allow a floor amendment that would give members a choice between the scholarships and the tax credit approach.
ullman said he expected House leaders to delay any floor vote on the Carter proposal until his panel had reported out a tuition credit bill. Pressure for the tax credit has been so strong recently that the House rebuffed a leadership effort to rush the Carter bill through.
The developments came as, separately, congressional leaders prepared for what are expected to be the first major steps by Congress to roll back Social Security taxes, with votes in the House Budget Committee and the Democratic caucus.
The budget panel is expected to begin consideration this morning of a proposal by its chairman, Rep. Robert N. Giaimo (D-Conn.), that would reduce payroll taxes by $7.5 billion, at the expense of part of President Carter's $25 billion income tax cut plan.
Tomorrow, the Democratic caucus is scheduled to vote on a formal request to the Budget and Ways and Means committee to approve legislation to cut Social Security taxes, despite opposition from the administration.
Congress ignored the administration's recommendations last year and voted to raise payroll taxes in an effort to bail the Social Security system out of financial straits. Since then, however, many members have heard complaints from constituents and have begun having second thoughts.
Vanik's tuition credit proposal would trim back the Finance Committee version of the legislation, first by limiting the tax break of full-time students only, and second by paring it from the $500-a-student credit that the Senate bill would provide.
The Vanik proposal which would be phased in gradually over the three years, would cost $1.4 billion when fully effective - compared of $4.5 billion for the Finance Committee measure and $1.5 billion for the Carter scholarship plan.
However, unlike the others, the Vanik plan would expire in 1980. Ullman sent out a notice late last week telling Ways and Means members that the Vanik measure would be on the agenda when the panel began its tax markup sessions.