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Obama considers levy on banks

WASHINGTON — President Obama is weighing a levy on rescued banks to help recover shortfalls in a $700 billion bailout fund and to help balance the federal budget.

A senior administration official said Monday that Obama would seek modifications to the law that sent billions in bailout money in 2008 and 2009 to a flailing Wall Street that was approaching collapse. The government official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the president's thinking.

The law that created the Troubled Asset Relief Program gives the president until 2014 to seek a way to recoup unrecovered money from financial institutions.

An industry official said consideration of a levy now would be premature.

"Current law doesn't trigger this tax proposal for another four years," said Scott Talbott, chief lobbyist for the Financial Services Roundtable, an industry group for some of the largest financial firms.

"We look forward to seeing the details of the complexity of the formula, of who it's applied to and what the assessment is based on and when it is applied," he said.

Government officials have conceded that they don't expect to recoup billions in money used to rescue insurance conglomerate American International Group Inc. and the auto industry. Banks have been repaying their infusions, in part to get out from under compensation limits imposed on the bailout recipients.

The senior administration official said the move would uphold Obama's promise to recoup taxpayers' investment in the financial industry. Funds collected from such a levy would go to pay down the $1.4 trillion deficit.

Washington spent about $205 billion to help banks in the Troubled Asset Relief Program — much less than President George W. Bush's Treasury Department secured to keep financial firms afloat.

So far, $122 billion of that has been repaid.

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