Cents and sensibility: Whats's the deal with my rebate?

January 30, 2008 12:00 am

By Kelley Atherton

Triplicate staff writer

Congress and the White House are close to reaching a deal on an economic stimulus plan.

Immediately following President Bush's proposal, House leaders shoved through a plan only slightly different from the president's. The House approved the package yesterday 385 to 35. This rare glimpse of bipartisanship gives them something to gloat about.

However, the Senate Finance Committee's stimulus package could throw a potential monkey wrench into the agreement.

What this means for the American people is that it may take longer to get tax rebates.

Here are some of the differences between the House and Senate plans:

The House package equals about $146 billion this year and $15 billion next year.

•117 million people would receive rebate checks, 35 million more than Pres. Bush's plan

•$600 in tax rebates to single workers and $1,200 for married couples

•$300 rebate for those not earning enough to pay income tax

•Parents would receive $300 per child (under 17 years old)

•Rebate eligibility caps at incomes of $75,000 a year for single workers and $150,000 for couples

In addition, the Federal Housing Administration would be able to insure high-priced mortgages and allow those threatened by foreclosure to renegotiate loans without paying penalties. Due to the rise in the housing market, mortgage maximums from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae would increase from $417,000 to $729,750.

Another important measure for businesses includes tax write-offs for corporate investments, and businesses would receive $45 billion in tax incentives.

The Senate package equals $156 billion.

•$500 in tax rebates to single workers and $1,000 for married couples

•$500 tax rebate for those not earning enough to pay income tax and seniors receiving $3,000 in Social Security income

•Parents would still receive $300 per child (under 17 years old)

•Eliminates eligibility cap

Other elements were tweaked, such as unemployment benefits that were extended to 13 weeks for the long term and incentives for business investments were decreased.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid will introduce the House bill tonight and allow Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., a chance to substitute it for his plan.

Senators could also add other revisions that House leaders left out, including heating assistance for the poor, food-stamp money, more business tax incentives, road-resurfacing funds and making Bush's tax-cuts permanent.

The stimulus package will be borrowed money and will be tacked on to the deficit. An increase in spending could cause Bush to veto the bill.

The greatest fear in Washington right now is that the Senate plan indicates a battle ahead. All along, Bush has pressured Congress to get a bill to his desk quickly, something he echoed in his State of the Union speech Monday night.

"The temptation will be to load up the bill," Bush said. "That would delay it or derail it, and neither option is acceptable."

The key word is compromise right now. The House has done it and the Senate will have to as well. Too many added measures could prevent the stimulus plan from moving forward, further delaying the economy from bouncing back.

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