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CAMPAIGN '96 : GOP Proposes 'Faith-Based' Tax Breaks in Attack on Urban Ills

February 28, 1996| From a Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — House Republicans introduced a sweeping plan Tuesday to address urban blight by easing restrictions on religious organizations operating in poor communities and providing new tax breaks for Americans who support "faith-based" charities engaged in such efforts.

"If you don't start with a faith-based approach, you aren't starting," said House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), giving the proposal the GOP leadership's stamp of approval.

The plan would offer tax breaks and cut regulations to stimulate economic recovery in poor communities, change the way federal money flows into such areas so more of it gets to grass-roots religious groups and offer school vouchers or scholarships to poor families who send their children to private schools--including those run by churches, synagogues and mosques.

The plan faces an uphill battle in the courts and against congressional Democrats, many of whom believe that only the government can ensure that everyone who needs help receives it.

The measure would create 100 "renewal communities" in areas with poverty rates of at least 20% and unemployment rates at least 1 1/2 times the national average. Each of these communities would be required to run federally funded school choice programs, which would offer vouchers for families at or below 185% of the poverty rate to send children to private schools.

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