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Area Lawmakers Split on Clinton Economic Plan


WASHINGTON — Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City) said that President Clinton's economic program would "mean more home-building, more jobs, more borrowing for new business" for his northeast San Fernando Valley district. Rep. Carlos J. Moorhead (R-Glendale) said that it would cost California tens of thousands of jobs and stifle economic growth.

The two lawmakers reflected the partisan breakdown among San Fernando Valley area representatives Thursday when they cast their votes on Clinton's controversial five-year economic plan. Democratic Reps. Anthony C. Beilenson of Woodland Hills and Henry A. Waxman of Los Angeles backed the measure; Republican Howard P. (Buck) McKeon (R-Santa Clarita) opposed it.

"It will reduce the deficit by about $500 billion over the next five years," said Beilenson, one of his party's deficit hawks for the past decade. "Everyone knows this will be of great help to the economy."

None of the Valley Democrats were among the members of the majority party who required any arm-twisting by the President or House leaders to provide the narrow margin of victory.

The Democrats defended the plan as the most credible deficit-reduction program put forward during the past 12 years. The Republicans, conversely, derided the prospect of significant savings; they both voted for an alternative proposal by Rep. John Kasich (R-Ohio) that would reduce the deficit by $425 billion over five years without any tax increases by imposing deeper spending cuts. This includes making the higher-income elderly pay more for Medicare.

"You've got to make substantial cuts some place," Moorhead said. "They don't do it."

The Valley would be disproportionately impacted by a proposed tax on all forms of energy because of its heavy dependence on gasoline for transportation. The region's defense contractors, already feeling the post-Cold War pinch of lower military spending, would take another major hit from Clinton's dramatic proposed decreases in the Pentagon's budgets.

"I'm concerned what it will do to the district," said McKeon, who represents the aerospace-rich Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys and the northwest San Fernando Valley. "I have another concern, too, about the defense of the country." He said the bill's energy tax increases and defense cuts would be devastating for his constituents.

In contrast, Berman said that his constituents would benefit along with other Americans if the Clinton program becomes law.

"Serious deficit reduction means lower interest rates and more business confidence, " he said. "This means more home-building, more jobs, more borrowing for new businesses. The relatively minimal increases in the average person's taxes will be dramatically outweighed by the economic benefits on mortgage payments, on job expansion."

Both Moorhead and McKeon cited a study by the Washington-based Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan, business-oriented research organization, contending that more than 1,000 jobs would be lost in each district by 1998 as a result of sharply higher energy costs that would have to be absorbed or passed along to consumers by business.

Moorhead said that this levy would hit California's heavy crude oil industry especially hard and would "have an effect on many industries that are energy-intensive."

McKeon said that the levy would trigger an 8-cent-a-gallon rise in the gasoline tax that would be particularly onerous for the 40,000 to 50,000 workers who commute from the Antelope Valley to Los Angeles each day.

Beilenson, long an advocate of higher gasoline taxes, and Berman cited the conservation benefits from this fee as a plus.

Beilenson said that the average middle-class family would pay an additional $14 to $18 a month when the tax is fully implemented in five years.

"That's their contribution for bringing their country's deficit under control," he said.

Both Democrats, who have back lower defense spending, called large reductions inevitable.


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