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Wage Hike, Gas Tax May Be Linked

A minimum wage increase gained momentum in Congress on Wednesday as some Senate Democrats expressed interest in a Republican idea to link it to repeal of the 4.3-cent federal gasoline tax. Meanwhile, House GOP leaders resigned themselves to allowing a vote on the wage issue.

It has been a week of intense political maneuvering and one-upmanship as Republicans have tried to get on the offensive against soaring gasoline prices, Democrats have pressed the potent wage issue and President Clinton has displayed the power of the White House by moving to lower oil prices and, in a preemptive effort, raise beef prices.

Determined not to give the GOP a toehold on fall campaign issues, Clinton moved this week to lower petroleum costs by selling off 12 million barrels of oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. He also ordered the government to buy more school lunch beef to bolster plummeting cattle prices.

But Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, the certain Republican challenger in November, maintained that the president’s actions on gas prices “did not go far enough.”

In a USA Today article published Wednesday, he called for repeal of the 4.3-cents-a-gallon gas tax, which was added in 1993 as part of Clinton’s deficit-reduction effort.

The Senate majority leader did not repeat previous comments that he would be open to “coupling” gas tax repeal with a minimum wage hike.

But Democrats already were moving to take advantage of that opening. Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Senate minority leader, said he is receptive to linking the two issues.

Democrats have proposed phasing in a 90-cent increase in the $4.25-an-hour minimum wage. House Republicans have proposed an increase of $1.

“I will go for anything that would allow us the opportunity to see an increase in the minimum wage,” Daschle said.


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