Tennessee senator proposes tax credit

Hank Hayes • Feb 18, 2008 at 12:00 AM

GRAY — In a move meant to stimulate the sluggish housing market, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander urged congressional approval Monday of legislation he is sponsoring to give a $15,000 tax credit over three years to buyers of new and foreclosed homes.

“I think if we can stabilize the housing market, we can reinvigorate the economy more rapidly than in any other way,” the Tennessee Republican said of the bill during a stop to tour the Gray Fossil Site. “This was tried in the 1970s ... (and) it brought more buyers into the marketplace.”

Alexander said Tennessee was eighth highest in the country during the third quarter of 2007 in the number of homeowners whose mortgage payments were delinquent — making their homes subject to foreclosure.

“This is a 54 percent increase in Tennessee mortgage delinquencies over two years, from 53,800 delinquencies in the third quarter of 2005 to 82,700 in the third quarter of 2007,” Alexander said, citing statistics from the Joint Economic Committee of Congress.

Alexander also praised the recently approved multi-billion-dollar economic stimulus package approved by Congress. About 2.7 million Tennesseans will receive tax rebates as part of the package, he said.

Alexander told business leaders during his appearance that the package could help as many as 2,800 Washington County businesses. The package, he said, will temporarily allow businesses to deduct 50 percent of the costs of new equipment purchases.

He promised to introduce legislation to make the tax code changes permanent “as a way of keeping a strong, vibrant economy producing good, new jobs.”

Alexander, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, also advocated legislation for Congress to adopt a two-year budget process.

“We simply do our budget every two years and then spend every other year reviewing, repealing and revising legislation,” said Alexander, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “We’ve got a lot of forces in Washington to add more regulations and spend more money. We need a big force to reduce regulations and spend less money.”

Over the past several years, Alexander noted Congress has routinely failed to pass its individual appropriations bills by the end of the fiscal year. This has forced Congress to pass stopgap legislation to keep the government operating with giant “omnibus” appropriations bills containing costly, unrelated provisions, he said.

Alexander has been a supporter of earlier versions of this two-year budget legislation. U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., has signed on to the current version of the bill.

Alexander also said he hasn’t been a supporter of GOP presidential challenger Mike Huckabee’s call for a national sales tax, or “Fair Tax,” to replace the federal income tax collected by the Internal Revenue Service.

“I would prefer an optional one-page flat tax income tax. In other words, you could opt to pay a single rate, whatever it might be, 17, 18 percent ... and be done with it,” said Alexander, who will be running for re-election this year.

Concerning the race for the GOP presidential nomination, Alexander said he would have no problem supporting Republican front-runner John McCain.

“He is strong on national defense,” Alexander, who previously supported former U.S. Fred Thompson’s presidential bid, said of McCain. “There is no one more vigilant about stopping wasteful Washington spending than John McCain. I think he would be a strong nominee for our party.”

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