NRA pushes 100% amendment; Heinz blasted

NRA pushes 100% amendment; Heinz blasted – National Restaurant Association, John Heinz, business meal tax deduction

Charles Bernstein

NRA pushes 100% amendment; Heinz blasted

National Restaurant Association executives and staffers moved at presstime to introduce an amendment on the Senate floor to retain 100% business meal tax deductibility in the new tax reform package that the Senate is debating this month.

But President Reagan called Senate leaders to an emergency meeting and urged them not to look at any amendments and to pass the tax reform bill exactly according to the Senate Finance Committee’s version. At stake was a proposed introduction of amendments to prevent erosions of business meal deductions, of IRA deductions and of current pension advantages.

“Thrash out any differences with the House in conference committee’ was Reagan’s basic message to the Senate.

That strategy troubles food-service leaders, who fear the 80% business meal deductibility would stand as is if passed in the Senate since the same measure was included in the original House package.

Meanwhile, industry leaders assailed Sen. John Heinz (R-Pa.) and vowed to reassess Political Action Committee contributions in the light of his having abstained from the 9-9 Senate Finance Committee’s vote, which defeated an amendment to keep 100% business meal deductibility.

Heinz, who is part of the family that for years has controlled the H. J. Heinz Co., said after the 9-9 vote that he had abstained “to avoid a conflict of interest.’ Neither he nor any spokesman would respond to queries asking for clarification of this position or some explanation.

“Heinz sold us down the river’ was the reaction of one Pennsylvania food-service leader. “I cannot believe he would do this to the industry where he and his family have such a glorious heritage.’

Ted J. Balestreri, outgoing National Restaurant Association (NRA) president, declared that Sen. Heinz “could have been a hero at a moment when we needed him to keep American business competitive with foreign business. Despite our hopes, he dropped the ball on this one.’

NRA sources indicated that strong consideration would be given to withdrawing PAC support from Heinz “and others who defeated the 100% deductibility in the Senate Finance Committee.’

The one committee member who stayed away from the vote entirely, Sen. David Boren (D-Okla.), told industry leaders that “it’s just as well that I stayed in my Senate office, as I would have voted against 100% deductibility.’

Boren and Sen. Malcolm Wallop (R-Wyo.) had earlier been counted in favor of 100% deductibility but apparently changed their stand after committee chairman Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) delayed the vote for two weeks.

When the final vote came, inside sources maintain, “the entire committee knew the 100% deductibility amendment couldn’t pass. One member who voted against it for a 10-8 margin changed his no vote to a yes, creating the illusion of a tie, which defeated the amendment anyway.’

Photo: John Heinz (R-Pa.)

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