Bush to seek more funds for poor children, repeal of luxury tax on boats Proposals seen as bid to appeal to voters

January 26, 1992|By Robert Pear | Robert Pear,New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- Sprinkling largess among diverse constituencies at the start of an election year, President Bush wants to repeal the luxury tax on yachts and will propose a substantial increase in the federal budget for feeding and vaccinating poor children.

Confidential galley proofs of the budget, to be sent to Congress on Wednesday, show that Mr. Bush will also propose a doubling of federal spending to control tuberculosis, as well as a public housing initiative to let tenants oust bad managers.

Administration officials describe the repeal of the boat tax as a way to restore jobs lost in the maritime industry, and many Democrats support the proposal. Administration officials said they did not know whether Mr. Bush would seek changes in the luxury taxes on other items like jewelry, furs, private aircraft and automobiles. Cadillac dealers are clamoring for the repeal of the luxury tax on all items.

The documents show Mr. Bush boasting that he would spend "$100 billion for children's programs, up 66 percent since 1989," the year he became president.

Though Mr. Bush now takes credit for the increase, he criticized appropriations for many of the same programs as excessive when they were approved by Congress.

In this election year, Congress is likely to repeal the boat tax and to approve the extra money for children sought by Mr. Bush.

The president has led people to expect that in his State of the Union Message on Tuesday and in his budget the next day he will unveil a coherent vision of the nation's future, a bold new health policy and an economic recovery plan to save millions of jobs, including his own.

With deadly outbreaks of tuberculosis reported in many states, Mr. Bush seeks $66 million to control the disease in 1993, up from $32 million this year, the documents show.

The boat tax proposal will be presented as part of Mr. Bush's campaign to promote economic growth and create jobs. The tax, enacted in 1990, was originally seen by Democrats as a way for the government to extract revenue from people wealthy enough to buy boats costing more than $100,000.

But it adversely affected many craftsmen and artisans who lost jobs when boat sales slumped and boat builders went out of business. The 1990 law requires anyone who buys a new or imported boat with a retail price exceeding $100,000 to pay a 10 percent tax, formally known as a luxury tax, on the amount over $100,000. For a $300,000 boat, for example, the tax is $20,000.

Stung by Democratic charges that he has neglected the home front while focusing on foreign affairs the last three years, Mr. Bush will propose substantial increases in public health and child welfare programs.

These include childhood immunization (up 18 percent from last year, to $349 million); efforts to combat infant mortality (up 18 percent, to $9.4 billion); the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC (up 9 percent, to $2.8 billion), and community health centers (up 15 percent, to $684 million).

The $100 billion for children, as calculated by Mr. Bush, includes Social Security, Medicaid, public assistance and education programs.

Mr. Bush will seek a total of $120 million for the National Health Service Corps, which places doctors in rural areas and inner-city neighborhoods where physicians are in short supply. That represents an increase of 19 percent for the corps.

The corps' budget was slashed by the Reagan administration, which predicted in 1981 that the problems of access to basic health care would be "virtually eliminated within the next few years due to growth in the nation's supply of physicians."

Mr. Bush's budget also proposes a "perestroika in public housing initiative." The name alludes to Soviet efforts at political and economic restructuring. Under the proposal, tenants of public housing could vote to transfer control of particularly shabby projects to new managers.

Alfred A. DelliBovi, deputy secretary of Housing and Urban Development, said this proposal would let tenants replace managers who do not fix the elevators and do not provide adequate heat and security for the residents.

Robert Y. Nelson Jr., executive director of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, denounced the proposal, saying that the decay of public housing results not from mismanagement, but from "a lack of federal money and a lack of federal attention."

Mr. DelliBovi said that the proposal would apply to any local agency that was on a federal list of "troubled public housing authorities" for more than three years.

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