The massive tax and spending bill that Congress will send to President Clinton this weekend is a compromise of earlier bills passed by each chamber. Its provisions would touch the lives of a wide range of Americans: recipients of welfare benefits, Medicare and Medicaid; families with children; students with federally funded guaranteed loans; farmers who get price supports. Here are some of the changes the bill would bring about, some of the deals that were cut and some of the reasons the president has vowed to veto it. AGRICULTURE Eliminating Old Farm Supports
Republicans are extremely pleased to have saved $12.2 billion from farm programs over seven years. They are also pleased to have included the House-proposed "Freedom to Farm Act" in the budget package, a real reform that eliminates the old farm support structure for major commodities and replaces it with a system of fixed payments to farmers.
Not so pleased is the Clinton administration. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, emphasizing that his opinion is not -- at least not yet -- the administration's official stance, said Freedom to Farm, "in its current form is likely to be unacceptable."
Glickman argues that fixed payments mean farmers receive government money even when commodity prices are high, not the case under current law. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) counters by pointing out that Congress in the past has tended to grossly underestimate the annual payout, and that Freedom to Farm has the beauty of giving both government and farmers the certainty that a fixed amount of money will be given and received.
Republicans are less happy that they were unable to significantly reform or eliminate altogether price-distorting programs for sugar, peanuts and dairy. Roberts has promised a fresh look at these issues in the near future, but the GOP's free traders are not likely to prevail unless they can bring along some consumer-district Democrats. Thus far Democrats have remained united in refusing even to participate in the debate. -- Guy Gugliotta BANKING AND FINANCIAL SERVICES New Fee for Savings and Loans
The measure would levy a one-time fee on the savings and loan industry to boost the capital of the insurance fund that protects depositors in those institutions and would require that payments on special bonds issued to help clean up the savings and loan crisis would be shared by the bank and thrift deposit insurance funds.
However, after much lobbying by the industry, conferees dropped a House provision that would have forced all federal savings and loans to convert to national banks or state-chartered institutions and would have eliminated the Resolution Trust Corp. That issue will be considered again at a later date.
Conferees also agreed to reduce certain rent increases granted to landlords under the Section 8 subsidized housing program and to allow the Housing and Urban Development Department more flexibility in dealing with homeowners who have defaulted on government-backed mortgages. -- Albert Crenshaw COMMERCE,SALE OF FEDERAL ASSETS Trying to Raise $19.3 Billion
The reconciliation bill seeks to raise $19.3 billion over seven years, some $15.3 billion of which would be generated by auctioning federal licenses for use of the electromagnetic radio spectrum.
Broadcasters retained their exemption from such auctions. The Federal Communications Commission is directed to do a 180-day study on whether the spectrum reserved for advanced television should be authorized. Although the Senate had proposed that no licenses be awarded until January 1998, the new language pushes that date up to November 1996. If the FCC study concludes that there would be significant benefits from auctioning off the spectrum now designated for the broadcasters, the bill indicates that Congress would have to take additional action.
The bill continues earlier plans to raise the additional funding through selling off excess capacity of the Naval Petroleum Reserve and extending the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's authority to collect user fees.
Plans for the spectrum licenses could change, however, should the administration and Congress need additional sources of revenue to make the budget balance as they negotiate differences in their projected tax revenues and Medicare expenditures.
House GOP leaders included legislation in the budget plan to dismantle the Commerce Department to save $6 billion, but the Senate did not. Conferees also omitted the dismantling legislation. -- Elizabeth Corcoran EDUCATION Target: Direct Student Lending
The bill proposes cutting $4.9 billion from federal student loan programs over the next seven years. The original figure had been more than $10 billion, but under intense pressure from education groups House and Senate negotiators have axed all GOP plans to make college loans more expensive. Instead, they intend to save money in part by decreasing the federal subsidies that banks get for defaulted student loans and having banks pay higher fees on the loans. The main target of the Republican cuts is the Clinton administration's new direct lending program. It allows students to bypass banks and lending agencies and get loans straight from the federal government. Right now, about 1,400 universities have begun using that method. That accounts for nearly 40 percent of the nation's $25 billion student-loan volume. The bill proposes restricting that figure to 10 percent, which would force hundreds of universities out of the program.
Clinton has vowed to veto the entire bill because of that provision.
Republicans, who have been lobbied intensely by banks to kill or severely limit direct lending, also want to cut most of the money the Education Department spends to manage it. Republicans say those cuts will keep direct lending small and allow the nation to assess it for a few years. Clinton officials say it is an attempt to kill the program and help banks at the expense of students. -- Rene Sanchez FEDERAL EMPLOYEE BENEFITS Changes for Pension Programs
The final bill would save $10.1 billion over seven years through changes to federal employee pension programs, mainly by asking federal workers and government agencies to pay more into the retirement system.
The savings, primarily devised by Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), would:
* Increase federal and postal employee contributions for retirement. The contribution rate for workers covered by the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) would increase in three steps from the current 7 percent to 7.5 percent in 1998. The contribution rate for employees participating in the Federal Employees Retirement System would rise from the current 0.8 percent to 1.3 percent in 1998. Contribution rates would revert to current levels after 2002.
* Increase non-postal agency contributions for CSRS employees from 7 percent to 8.5 percent, reverting back to 7 percent after 2002.
* Continue the delay in paying cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for federal civilian retirees. Rather than allow the civilian retiree COLA to revert to a January payment in 1997, the bill would continue the April payment through 2002 and revert to a January payment in 2003.
* Scale back pensions awarded House and Senate members and their staffs. Starting next year, the rates at which congressional pension benefits are accrued would be reduced to match the rates in the rank-and-file federal employee program. The old accrual rates would apply to congressional service prior to Jan. 1, 1996. -- Stephen Barr INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS Modest Reductions in Spending
The budget measure imposes modest reductions on projected spending for international relations. All other provisions affecting the government's international operations were eliminated from the bill. The House version would have abolished the Agency for International Development, the U.S. Information Agency and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and merged some of their functions into the State Department. That provision was eliminated from the budget measure, but it remains alive as part of the House-passed foreign aid authorization bill.
Also eliminated was a proposal to allow the State Department to file medical insurance reimbursement claims for foreign service personnel treated at government medical facilities abroad. -- Thomas W. Lippman NATURAL RESOURCES Battle Looms on Arctic Refuge
The compromise budget reconciliation bill includes one environmental provision that Clinton has vowed to veto, opening up the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. The legislation estimates that the government would reap 90 percent or $1.3 billion of the royalties from the drilling, but Alaska politicians have said they would push for a 50 percent share for the state in court once the legislation is passed.
Environmentalists and the Clinton administration claim that drilling in the 1.5 million acre coastal plain of the refuge could harm the huge Porcupine caribou herd and other wildlife, while supporters say that modern techniques make any environmental damage extremely unlikely.
Other contentious sections in the Interior portions of the bill include revisions to a 19th century mining act supported by the industry that depends on access to federal lands for gold, silver and other hard-rock mining. For the first time, the legislation would impose a royalty on minerals taken from federal lands. But the mining industry would be able to deduct such an array of expenses that the Congressional Budget Office estimates the royalty would produce just $12 million over 7 years.
The legislation ends a 123-year-old system under which miners can take title to federal mineral land for as little as $2.50 an acre, forcing them to pay the value of the land itself, but not the minerals. However, hundreds of claims already filed would be exempt from paying those new costs, as well as the new royalty.
Dropped from the House-Senate conference report were other contentious provisions that called for the sale of Forest Service land to western ski resorts, and overturned Interior Department reforms of livestock grazing on public lands.
But the final version includes Senate language that would allow large farming operations that receive water from federal reclamation projects, primarily in California, to escape from upcoming rules that would have forced them to pay full price for water if they irrigate more than 960 acres of land.
The bill also clears the way for conveyance of federal land in California for a low-level nuclear waste dump, without the safeguards of further scientific studies that the Interior Department insisted on in negotiations with Gov. Pete Wilson. Also, the legislation retains a new system governing private concessions in national parks that critics maintain would continue to favor existing concessioners. However, unlike the House bill, the final legislation would not apply to concessioners on other federal lands such as national forests. -- Tom Kenworthy SOCIAL PROGRAMS Medicaid, Medicare Overhaul
No section of the budget bill has attracted more veto threats than the GOP's far-reaching proposals to turn dozens of social programs over to the states and save money in the process.
Responding to the wishes of governors, the bill includes major welfare changes. It turns the Medicaid health program for the poor over to the states and sharply slows the annual growth of the Medicare program for the elderly.
White House Chief of Staff Leon E. Panetta calls the welfare provisions "unacceptable," and the White House has threatened to veto the Medicare and Medicaid proposals almost from the moment they were revealed.
On Medicaid, the reconciliation bill would:
* Eliminate the federal-state Medicaid program, which has been growing by more than 10 percent a year, and replace it with a "Medigrant" system of lump-sum payments to states that would be allowed to grow by an average 5.2 percent each year.
* Allow states to determine benefits and payment rates. Childhood immunizations and family planning services would be guaranteed. States would be required to cover pregnant women, children under age 13 and the disabled; but what the requirement would cover would be up to each state. States would write the definition of disabled.
On welfare, the balanced budget bill would end the federal guarantee of assistance to poor families and replace it with block grants to states to use to develop and operate programs. Benefits would be limited to five years, and half of all recipients would be required to be in "work programs" by 2002.
States could choose to deny aid to unmarried teenage mothers and their children and must deny new benefits to women who have additional children while receiving assistance unless both houses of a legislature vote to "opt out" of this provision.
On Medicare, the budget bill would cut program growth from 10 percent a year to 6.3 percent to save $270 billion over the next seven years and postpone for at least a decade the projected bankruptcy of the Medicare hospital fund in 2002.
Most reductions would come from slowing increases in fees paid to hospitals and other providers of care. But substantial savings would also come from keeping the Medicare premium paid by enrollees at a level that covers 31.5 percent of the cost of the doctor insurance portion of the program, instead of letting it drop to 25 percent next year and lower later. Additional savings would come from giving Medicare beneficiaries the option of purchasing a private health plan at government expense. The health insurance industry was a major force for this privatization scheme, seeing the potential for billions of dollars in new business.
The White House says the $270 billion figure for savings can't be achieved in seven years without severely reducing quality of service and imposing new costs on low-income beneficiaries. -- Judith Havemman and Spencer Rich TAXES Package Would Cut $245 Billion
President Clinton has embraced in principle many key aspects of the $245 billion tax package included in the final reconciliation bill, including proposals that would extend parents a $500 tax credit for every child and encourage contributions to Individual Retirement Accounts. But there are some provisions in the GOP tax package the White House is certain to attack. Foremost among them: the Republicans' call to reduce proposed spending on the earned income tax credit (EITC) for the working poor by $32.5 billion over seven years. To blunt Democratic criticisms that their proposals favor the wealthy, Republicans said they retooled a formula to allow low-income workers to qualify for the $500-per-child tax break even if their EITC benefits get cut.
Treasury officials estimate 4.3 million low-wage workers without children will still see no gain. And congressional Democrats charge the new formula is so complicated many low-wage families will be discouraged from claiming their rebate.
The administration also charges the GOP's $35.6 billion tax break for gains on the sale of stocks and other property is much too big. Conferees delayed until 2001 a costly provision that would let investors avoid paying tax on inflation gains. But while the provision appears to bring in revenue in its first four years, it is a $66 billion net revenue loser over 10 years, Treasury argues.
The GOP tax package also includes a tax cut for heirs of family estates that Treasury projects will result in an $80,000 average break per beneficiary. The provision costs the Treasury $12 billion in lost revenue and benefits only 25,000 of the nation's wealthiest families a year. -- Clay Chandler TRANSPORTATION Braking Infrastructure Costs
Conferees approved the sale of the air rights adjacent to Washington's Union Station for downtown development and New York's Governor's Island off the tip of lower Manhattan as part of the budget for transportation and infrastructure.
The major thrust of the new budget bill, however, is to slow the growth of projected spending on transportation infrastructure by $1.3 billion over the next seven years, nearly half the slowdown from a reduction in spending for highway demonstration projects. The final bill allows the continuation of fees charged by the Federal Emergency Management Administration as well as an extension of vessel tonnage fees.
Authorization for the sale of the air rights over the railroad yards north of Union Station for $40 million comes as a local development group planned to build a combination convention center, sports arena and hotel complex in a joint venture with Amtrak. Area architect Seymour Auerbach, a principal in the local developer group, Air Rights Group Inc., had hoped to attract the Capitals and the Bullets, Washington's professional ice hockey and basketball teams, to his proposed new sports arena.
Auerbach said that as of yesterday his group was still working on the development plans, but would not say what impact the congressional action would have on the effort.
Conferees authorized the sale of Governor's Island for $500 million. -- Frank Swoboda VETERANS AFFAIRS Maneuvers Over Money
The fight over veterans programs boils down to one word: money.
Democrats say the bill does not contain enough money for veterans programs; Republicans counter that over the next five years their plans will give $337 million more for medical care of the nation's 26 million veterans.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Jesse Brown angered GOP lawmakers by leading an attack on their budget that including sending e-mail messages to VA employees and messages inside their paychecks. He argued that the GOP budget would force the agency to cut back on services to ailing veterans and might force the department to close some of its 171 hospitals.
"It simply does not treat veterans rights," Brown said.
A big hit that the Congress made in the VA's budget was to eliminate two new hospitals the administration wanted to open, one in Brevard County, Fla., and the other at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. The administration also has said the legislation would make cuts in the remodeling of older veterans hospitals and the processing of veterans' claims.
The conferees rejected a Senate proposal to increase the amount of money that military personnel must contribute to obtain educational benefits under the so-called Montgomery GI bill. It will remain at $100 a month for the first 12 months in uniform instead of being increased to $134.96. -- Bill McAllister