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High hopes for an auto tax credit

Posted: January 6, 2009 9:19 p.m.
Updated: January 7, 2009 4:59 a.m.

Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon wants to jump-start the economy by supporting a tax credit for new-car buyers.

"We have a real problem in our district with car dealers who are really struggling," said McKeon, R-Santa Clarita. "So I'm pushing a proposal that would give a tax credit to car buyers.

"It would help the car dealers, and it's one of the things that would get us back on the road to recovery," he said, adding that he discussed the idea with "a Democratic friend" in Washington.

Don Fleming, president of the Santa Clarita Auto Dealers Association, supports McKeon's proposal.

"I am aware of it and I am for it," he said.

Under the proposal, consumers would be able to deduct the sales tax on a car purchase and the interest on payments at the end of the year, he said.

"Something like that would stimulate the consumer," Fleming said.

Local car sales tax provides $6 million annually for city services.

Speaking to the press by phone from Washington, D.C., on the first day of the 111th Congress Tuesday, McKeon outlined his goals for the coming year and gave promising updates on his two ongoing bills: the
Cemex bill and the wilderness bill.

McKeon introduced the Cemex bill in April, calling on the Secretary of the Interior to cancel Bureau of Land Management mineral contracts that permit mining in the area near Santa Clarita and to stop further "mineral entry" in the area.

For years, McKeon has been on the side of the city in the quest to keep global cement giant Cemex Inc. from setting up a massive sand and gravel mine in Soledad Canyon.

The property in question is owned by the city, but the mining rights are controlled by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

The most recent bill McKeon introduced would provide Cemex with land outside the Santa Clarita Valley.

His wilderness bill - introduced in May as the Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act - seeks to protect sweeping tracts of land in National Forest areas in California, including some in the Angeles National Forest near Santa Clarita Valley.

Citing a spirit of bipartisanism in Washington, McKeon said the new government should spur discussion on his bill that promises, in part, to preserve national forests.

"Senator (Barbara) Boxer and I worked hard in the last Congress to push through (the wilderness) bill," he said. "We expect this package to receive senate action very early in this session, possibly even this month.

"And then we'll be pushing to get approval here in the house."

In September, the subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands discussed the wilderness bill.
McKeon referred to the bill Tuesday as a "big priority" and as something he and Sen. Boxer have, "worked hard on."

After a morning of elected federal officials taking oaths, many of the officials with their children in tow, McKeon went over the list of goals he's set for himself this session.

Topping the list of 2009 agenda was a pledge to pursue the Soledad Canyon Mine Act, which he described as something he has "been working on for a number of years."

"We built up a lot of support both nationally and locally for this proposal," McKeon said. "Right now I'm working closely with the stakeholders to finalize details of an improved version of the bill."

That bill also calls for Transit Mixed Concrete Corporation to receive, as compensation for cancellation of the contracts, its fair-market value and the company's expenditures and covered liabilities in trying to bring the contracts into commercial production.

In September, the wilderness bill was heard by the subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

In December, McKeon told The Signal in a sitdown interview that he hoped to have the Cemex and the wilderness bills heard in a lame-duck session of Congress.

The economic crisis at year-end sidelined those plans, he said.

Staff Writer Tammy Marashlian contributed to this report.


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