President Carter's proposals for $2.4 billion worth of tax credits to help spur development of new energy sources were all but hooted out of the Capitol yesterday by the House Ways and Means Committee.
In what was intended to be the start of a two-day drafting session, panel members took turns criticizing the package for its complexity, poking fun at individual proposals and questioning whether the credits were needed.
Eventually, committee chairman Al Ullman (D-Ore.) told Treasury officials to revamp the proposals and submit them again after Congress' August recess. "We want them restructured," he said, "simple and specific."
The hostile reaction was a setback for the administration. Carter had hoped to win prompt approval of the package as the first component of the energy trust fund to be financed by his proposed so-called "windfall profits" tax.
Meanwhile, the Senate Finance Committee put off action yesterday on the windfall profits tax bill until September, holding a token session to hear departing Energy Secretary James R. Schlesinger make a final appeal for quick passage.
Sen. Russell B. Long (D-La.), the panel's chairman, has said the committee wants to hold up any votes on the tax bill until it can see what the House decides on the elements of the energy trust fund.
The administration's new package would provide tax credits for installation of solar energy equipment for homes, apartments and commercial buildings, woodburning stoves and production of shale oil, gasohol and hard-to-get-at natural gas.
It was the first of these that drew the bulk of the criticism yesterday, in part because of a detailed Treasury proposal outlining conditions for the credit and a complex mathematical formula for computing it.
However, several members of the committee said they would be reluctant to vote for any of the proposals, at least until the administration provides more justification.
And Reps. Henson Moore (R-La.) and Bill Archer (R-Tex.) called for more economic data to support the Carter package.
Members ridiculed various elements of the package, particularly tax credits for installing wood-burning stoves and for angling solar collectors so they face the south side of a building.
Moore proposed a tax credit for thermal underwear. Rep. William Brodhead (D-Mich.) raised the possibility that providing a tax break for woodburning stoves might make it necessary to "post guards around our trees."
Gibbons suggested providing a tax credit for whatever energy might be produced by "burning the Treasury's proposals." And Rep. Andrew Jacobs (D-Ind.) branded the computation formula as simple, "if you could read it in the original Greek."
The thrust of the committee's objections appeared to be based on a view that the tax credits were not needed, particularly in the wake of Carter's decision to lift oil price controls.
Several members noted bitterly that the Energy Department had opposed many of these same proposals last year when the measures were tacked onto the energy bill. Officials argued decontrol would provide the needed incentives.
The barrage of sarcasm was one of the most hostile receptions that any of Carter's tax proposals have received from the panel. The committee was more sympathetic to his quickly rejected plan to tax the "three-martini lunch."