May 8, 1996 in Nation/World

Dole Tries To Link Gas Tax Cut, Wage Hike But Anti-Union Provision Kills Chance Of Democrat Support

Boston Globe

Senate Republican leader Bob Dole, seeking political advantage from rising gasoline prices, tried Tuesday to push a gas-tax cut through the Senate by tying it to an increase in the minimum wage. But he was stymied by Senate Democrats.

For the first time, Dole linked repeal of 4.3 cents-a-gallon in federal gasoline taxes to a 90-cent increase in the minimum wage, a Democratic priority. Dole has blocked repeated attempts by Democrats to vote on a two-step increase in the $4.25 minimum wage for more than a month.

Dole, however, also attached an anti-union provision - the so-called “Team Act” that would allow employers to meet with groups of employees on various workplace issues - which killed chances of striking a deal with the Democratic minority. Organized labor and the Clinton administration oppose the Team Act, claiming it would undermine the ability of workers to organize and bargain collectively.

“We believe this whole effort has more to do with politics than the price of gasoline,” said Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle.

Although Dole and the Democrats reached an impasse, there were indications that negotiations might continue today.

Dole, the likely Republican presidential nominee, offered three separate deals to Senate Democrats in an attempt to sustain momentum on the gas tax cut.

“Some people say 4.3 cents is not really worth it, but it is important to send a message to the American people that we are serious about tax reform,” Dole said. “We need to cut taxes for the average family.”

The proposed legislation would temporarily roll back the 4.3-cent-per-gallon increase in the gasoline tax adopted in 1993 as part of President Clinton’s deficit reduction plan. The temporary rollback would expire at the end of the year and cost the U.S. Treasury an estimated $2.5 billion.

Political observers said Dole did not want to appear to be caving in to the opposition after rebuffing Democratic attempts to increase the minimum wage. At the same time, he wants to capitalize on the recent hike in gasoline prices as a way to give his campaign some traction.

A top aide to Daschle said Dole knew the anti-union proposal would invite a presidential veto.

“We take this as an opening gambit,” the aide said.

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