Let the Good Times Roll

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: With the spending portion of the balanced budget deal finished business in both houses of Congress, the House is set to venture back onto politically uncertain ground tonight with a vote to slash taxes over the next five years by $85 billion and tie the knot on the plan to balance the budget for the first time in 30 years. Under the Republican-proposed measure, Congress would tighten its tax belt by offering American families a $500 per child tax credit, across-the-board reductions in capital gains and estate taxes and a $10,000 deduction for education expenses paid through special investment accounts. House Democrats contend the bill is a classic Republican sell-out to the rich, while falling $4 billion short of the education-related tax breaks promised to the White House in the balanced budget deal. Democratic lawmakers, however, take a somewhat rosier view of the Republican tax agenda in the Senate, due for a vote on Friday. The Senate bill, with tax savings of $77 billion over the next five years, would broaden the $500 per child tax credit to low-income families and use income-indexed reductions in capital gains to target small businesses and middle-class families. The bill would also boost cigarette taxes by 20 cents per pack. Together, the two bills would constitute the biggest tax breaks since the Reagan Administration.