(CNSNews.com) - President Clinton proposed making college tuition tax deductible on Thursday at a cost of $31 billion over 10 years. The chief executive then blasted Republican leaders for predicting a light workload this election year.
Clinton said his College Opportunity Tax Cut would help millions of middle-class families pay for college, giving them a tax deduction of up to $10,000 a year in tuition costs, or a 28 percent tax credit for tuition and fees.
News service reports say that the tax cut would phase out for individuals with incomes between $50,000 and $60,000 and married filers with incomes between $100,000 and $120,000. This threshold is higher than those for any of the education tax cuts currently available.
"More than ever, with globalization and the information-based economy, investing in the minds of our people is the most important thing we can do to assure our continued success as a nation,'' Clinton said in a ceremony in the Old Executive Office Building next door to the White House.
Remarks on Wednesday by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, that no major initiatives should approved by Congress in this election year, gave Clinton and other White House officials a chance to pursue a story line they expect to emphasize all year: Republicans preside over a "do-nothing Congress.''
"Some in Congress, I note, are saying that, because this is an election year, we really shouldn't try to do anything for the American people. We're here today to give perhaps the most powerful example of why we should reject that view,'' Clinton said.
"Nothing, not a national election or a Washington snowstorm, should get in the way of making a college education more affordable for all Americans,'' Clinton said.
The event provided the President with the chance to showcase his wife's campaign for a New York Senate seat. Hillary Rodham Clinton had a prominent speaking role. White House officials insisted that it was not an attempt to help her campaign but to acknowledge her interest in education.
"From the moment a child is born in our country, many of us have the same question lurking in the back of our minds: How am I going to pay for college?'' she said.
New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, who, with Maine Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, co-sponsored a similar proposal that gained strong backing in the Senate last year but was not approved, held up the start of the event for an hour because his train from New York was delayed by a regional snowstorm.
"This plan will lighten the family's financial load significantly and help their children complete college without the cloud of an immense debt burden,'' Schumer said.
The proposal, even if it is not approved by Congress, would give Democrats a strong education platform to take on the campaign trail this year, and a targeted tax cut plan to run on against broad tax reduction offerings by Republicans.
The College Opportunity Tax Cut Plan was announced ahead of Clinton's annual and last State of the Union speech in one week. Funding for it is to be included in his February 7th budget proposal for the 2001 fiscal year which starts next October 1st.
As Clinton marked the start of his last year in office - a new president will be inaugurated on January 20, 2001 - White House officials tried to take tactical advantage of Lott's remark that "major things will have to wait on the next president and the next Congress.''
"The president believes this is a year to make progress, and doesn't believe we can afford to take a year off as some have suggested,'' said White House spokesman Joe Lockhart.
"I think congressional Republican leaders are completely misreading the public right now. The public wants progress ... and I think they will look dimly on political leaders who believe that this year is about making speeches and getting nothing done. Congress will get a paycheck every two weeks this year and the president expects them to earn it,'' Lockhart said.
Clinton has recently proposed major increases in spending in every large sector of the budget. On Wednesday he proposed the biggest federal increase in health coverage in 35 years - a $110 billion, 10-year plan to help those who cannot afford health insurance.