1993 Scorecard Vote
Soon after his inauguration, President Clinton proposed an energy tax on non-renewable energy sources, based on their relative heat content as measured in British Thermal Units. This energy tax, often called the "Btu tax," would have raised revenues, reduced the deficit, and caused more of the environmental costs of conventional energy production and consumption to be reflected in the price of energy.
The energy tax was the glue that held the green portion of the economic package together. Raising prices on inefficient or non-renewable energy uses would harness market forces to benefit the environment. Revenue from the tax was to be used to pay for other beneficial environmental measures in the President's stimulus package. It was opposed by industry, particularly agribusiness and oil companies who did not want to pay their fair share of taxes.
During floor consideration of the fiscal 1994 Budget Resolution, Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK) introduced an amendment which sought to completely eliminate the energy tax. The Nickles amendment was rejected 46-53 on March 18, 1993. NO is the pro-environmental vote.
(The budget package that included the energy tax revenues and provisions then passed both the House and the Senate. However, the Senate Finance Committee took up the tax in the Reconciliation Act, and replaced it with an unimpressive 4.3 cents-per gallon gasoline sales tax.)
During the same budget debate, Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN) introduced an amendment to exempt ethanol, among other fuels, from the energy tax. The Wellstone amendment threatened the integrity of the tax plan because it would have encouraged other senators to offer exemptions of their own. The object of heavy lobbying by agricultural interests, this amendment sought to treat ethanol (derived from corn) as an environmentally benign energy source and to further subsidize its production. The Wellstone amendment to the fiscal 1994 Budget Resolution was rejected 48-52 on March 23, 1993. NO is the pro-environmental vote.