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Support Superfund

By HR / October 10, 1986



THE landslide passage in Congress of a bill to strengthen the toxic-waste law and to pump $9 billion over five years into the Superfund reflects broad-based public support for strong environmental standards. And a veto from President Reagan would show him out of step with the people.

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The bill is a compromise that brought together such unlikely bedfellows as the National Audubon Society and the Chemical Manufacturers Association. Under the bill, Superfund, which is used to clean up toxic waste dumps, would be funded by, among other things, an increase in the ``feedstock tax'' on chemical manufacturers and two new levies, a tax on crude oil and a broad-based tax on corporate earnings.

Presidential advisers -- notably Treasury Secretary James A. Baker and budget chief James Miller -- have been urging Mr. Reagan to veto the bill, on grounds that the American people do not want new taxes.

But it's hard to imagine why both the Senate and the House would vote so overwhelmingly (88 to 8 and 386 to 27, respectively) -- and this on the eve of elections -- for a bill they thought the American people didn't want.

Moreover, Congress is signaling a willingness to stay in session -- despite the itch to hit the campaign trail -- to override the veto if necessary.

Some observers feel that if the President does sign the bill, it may be because he wishes to avoid the shock of a second veto override following so close on the one of South African sanctions.

The current Superfund bill is a compromise, not without imperfections. The support from the chemical manufacturers, for instance, presumably derives from its relief that the feedstock tax increase was smaller than originally threatened.

A trade group of food processors has been arguing against the broad corporate tax on grounds that they will have to pay for problems not of their making. A proposal for a value-added tax, or national sales tax, was eliminated from the discussion, which was probably just as well.

But the resounding vote on Capitol Hill can make the public feel good about the compromise that has been reached. It should guarantee Superfund a steady source of funds to make possible the toxic-waste cleanups the American people so clearly want.