By a 52-44 vote, the Senate failed to achieve cloture on the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008 (H.R. 6049), the tax package that included extensions of the renewable production tax credit, energy efficiency incentives, and a suite of other tax credit extensions. This version included an Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) patch without any offset.
Sen. Reid (D-Nev.) cast a procedural vote with the Republicans and Sens. Clinton, Kennedy, McCain, and Obama did not vote. Sens. Collins, Coleman, Corker, Smith, and Snowe voted with the Democrats (Collins, Coleman, and Smith are up for re-election). The voting was otherwise entirely on party lines.The timeline of the tax credits:
- FILIBUSTERED: June 17: H.R. 6049 filibustered 52-44 (Reid procedural vote with GOP)
- FILIBUSTERED: June 10: H.R. 6049 filibustered 50-44 (Reid procedural vote with GOP)
- PASSES SENATE, DIES IN HOUSE: April 10: S.Amdt. 4419 (tax credits without offsets, attached to Dodd housing bill) passes 88-8; not in House version
- PASSES HOUSE: February 27: House passes Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act (H.R. 5351; tax credits paid by closing oil loopholes) 236-182; referred to the Senate Finance Committee.
- FILIBUSTERED: February 6: S. Amdt 3983 to H.R. 5140 (tax credits without offsets, attached to stimulus package) filibustered by one vote (58-41; Reid procedural vote with GOP, McCain not voting)
- January 30: Senate Finance Committee attaches tax credits to stimulus package
- FILIBUSTERED: December 13: H.R. 6 (tax credits paid by closing oil loopholes) filibustered by one vote (59-40; Landrieu with GOP, McCain not voting). Version of H.R. 6 without tax credits or RES passes 86-8.
- PASSES HOUSE: December 6: House passes H.R. 6 with tax credits and RES 235-181.
- June 21: Senate passes S.Amdt.1502 to H.R. 6 (no tax credits or RES)
- FILIBUSTERED: June 21: S.Amdt. 1704 to S.Amdt. 1502 to to H.R. 6 (tax credits paid by closing oil loopholes) filibustered 57-36 (Landrieu with GOP, Boxer, Brownback, Coburn, Johnson, McCain, Sessions not voting)
- PASSES HOUSE: January 18: House passes H.R. 6 with tax credits and RES 264-163.
Cross-posted from Gristmill.
With gas prices now averaging a record $4.04 a gallon in the United States, the Senate voted on two bills Tuesday that would have revoked tax breaks for Big Oil and extended tax credits to renewable energy. Proponents of the two measures touted them as vital for consumer relief and transition to new energy sources, but both measures failed to muster the 60 votes needed to proceed.
The first vote, on the Consumer First Energy Act (S. 3044), fell short of cloture by a vote of 51-43. The second, on the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008 (H.R. 6049), failed by a vote of 50-44. Both votes fell largely along party lines.
The Consumer First Energy Act
The Consumer First Energy Act would have levied a 25 percent tax on “windfall profits” of major oil companies, the proceeds of which would be invested in the Energy Independence and Security Act Trust Fund. Companies could avoid the tax by investing in renewable energy.
“It will force the oil companies to do something to help us get out of this mess instead of just profiting from it,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on the floor shortly before the vote.
The bill would also repeal tax breaks for major oil and gas companies, estimated at a value of $17 billion over the next 10 years, and suspend filling of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve through the end of 2008. There were measures to discourage “price gouging” and limit speculation in oil markets. The bill would also call for a NOPEC policy (clever acronym alert: “No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels”). This would crack down on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) by amending anti-trust laws and allowing the U.S. Attorney General to take legal action against countries and companies. Currently, a court ruling from 1979 gives OPEC members immunity in U.S. courts.
Republican leaders spoke on the floor in favor of expanding domestic oil drilling in places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a solution to gas-price woes rather than measures to move toward renewable energy sources. “This bill isn’t a serious response to high gas prices. It’s just a gimmick,” said Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “Republicans are determined to lower gas prices the only way we can: increasing supply.”
But proponents of the bill were adamant that the only way to bring down the costs of oil in the long term is to curb the country’s dependence on the fossil fuel. “We are in an oil crisis, and we better start taking action to get out of this mess,” said Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). “Feeding that addiction by tapping another vein just drills us into a deeper hole.”
Democratic leaders pointed out that Republicans wanted to talk about gas prices last week, when a climate change bill was on the floor, but when a bill addressing the underlying causes of high gas prices came up, Republicans refused to let it proceed.
“Last week they wanted to make global warming legislation about gas prices,” said Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). “When they have the chance to vote on it, they walk away.”
Six Republicans – Norm Coleman (Minn.), Susan Collins (Maine), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Gordon Smith (Ore.), Olympia Snowe (Maine), and John Warner (Va.) – voted in favor of moving to debate on the proposed legislation. Democrat Mary Landrieu (La.) voted against it (as did Reid, but his was a procedural move to ensure that he can bring the bill to the floor again in the future).
The Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act
The second bill, the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008, was the Senate partner to the tax-extenders legislation that passed in the House last month. The $54 billion package would have extended tax breaks for renewable energy that are set to expire at the end of this year. It includes a six-year extension of the investment tax credit for solar energy; a three-year extension of the production tax credit for biomass, geothermal, hydropower, landfill gas, and solid waste; and a one-year extension of the production tax credit for wind energy. The bill also has incentives for the production of renewable fuels such as biodiesel and cellulosic biofuels, incentives for companies that produce energy-efficient products, and incentives to improve efficiency in commercial and residential buildings. Funding for the tax credits would come from closing loopholes for hedge-fund managers and multinational corporations.
Republicans Smith, Snowe, and Bob Corker (Tenn.) voted in favor of cloture on the bill, as did all of the Democrats present for the vote.
The tax-break extensions have stalled in the Senate several times before, and folks in the renewables industry are starting to get nervous as we near the expiration of those credits at the end of this year.
“More than ever, with record energy prices, record unemployment, and grave concerns about global warming, Congress needs to work out differences so we can stabilize energy costs for consumers and businesses, improve our nation’s energy security, and create tens of thousands of quality, green-collar jobs,” said Solar Energy Industries Association President Rhone Resch following the vote.
Green groups rushed to chastise GOP leaders for the obstruction. “By once again blocking efforts to extend these crucial clean energy tax incentives that are in danger of expiring, this minority is responsible for kicking the economy while it’s down,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope in a written statement. “Jobs are already being lost in the renewable-energy industry and at least 100,000 more could disappear unless Congress acts to immediately renew these tax incentives.”
The Senate will resume consideration of the motion to proceed to S. 3044, a bill to provide energy price relief and hold oil companies and other entities accountable for their actions with regard to high energy prices, and for other purposes; provided, that there be one hour for debate prior to the cloture vote, equally divided and controlled between the two Leaders or their designees, with the final 20 minutes equally divided between the two Leaders or their designees, with the Majority Leader controlling the final 10 minutes prior to the cloture vote on the motion to proceed.
In addition, cloture has been filed on H.R. 6049, an act to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide incentives for energy production and conservation, to extend certain expiring provisions, to provide individual income tax relief, and for other purposes.
As oil and gas hit new records above $128 a barrel and $3.78 this week, many analysts are predicting even further increases in the price of gasoline as we edge towards the travel months of summer. To explore the Bush administration’s contributions to this energy crisis and the administration’s refusal to respond, Chairman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming announced today that Secretary of Energy Stephen Bodman will testify before the Committee on Thursday, May 22, as Americans prepare for the Memorial Day weekend, the beginning of the summer driving season.
Chairman Markey will also seek answers from Secretary Bodman on why the Bush administration continues to defend $18 billion in tax breaks to the top five most profitable oil companies that House Democrats want to redirect to fund renewable energy that could help consumers.Witness
- Samuel Bodman, Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy
The House Committee on Ways and Means today passed bipartisan legislation to extend vital tax relief to millions of families, strengthen investment opportunities for American businesses and encourage the production and use of renewable energy. The legislation, H.R. 6049, the Energy and Tax Extenders Act of 2008, was introduced by Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) and could be considered by the full House of Representatives as early as next week. H.R. 6049 passed the Committee by a vote of 25-12.
H.R. 6049 Energy and Tax Extenders Act of 2008
Summary: H.R. 6049, the Energy and Tax Extenders Act of 2008, will provide almost $20 billion of tax incentives for investment in renewable energy, carbon capture and sequestration demonstration projects, energy efficiency and conservation. The bill will also extends $27 billion of expiring temporary tax provisions, including the research and development credit, special rules for active financing income, the State and local sales tax deduction, the deduction for out-of-pocket expenses for teachers, and the deduction for qualified tuition expenses. In addition, the bill provides almost $10 billion of additional tax relief for individuals through an expansion of the refundable child tax credit and a new standard deduction for property taxes. The bill would be primarily offset by closing a tax loophole that allows individuals that work for certain offshore corporations, such as hedge fund managers, to defer tax on their compensation and would delay the effective date of a tax benefit that has not yet taken effect for multinational corporations operating overseas.
ENERGY TAX INCENTIVES
I. ENERGY PRODUCTION INCENTIVES
Renewable Energy Incentives
Long-term extension and modification of renewable energy production tax credit. The bill extends the placed-in-service date for wind facilities for one year (through December 31, 2009). The bill would also extend the placed-in-service date for three years (through December 31, 2011) for certain other qualifying facilities: closed-loop biomass; open-loop biomass; geothermal; small irrigation; hydropower; landfill gas; and trash combustion facilities. The bill also includes a new category of qualifying facilities that will benefit from the longer December 31, 2011 placed-in-service date—facilities that generate electricity from marine renewables (e.g., waves and tides). The bill would cap the aggregate amount of tax credits that can be earned for these qualifying facilities placed in service after December 31, 2009 to an amount that has a present value equal to 35% of the facility’s cost. The bill clarifies the availability of the production tax credit with respect to certain sales of electricity to regulated public utilities and updates the definition of an open-loop biomass facility, the definition of a trash combustion facility, and the definition of a nonhydroelectric dam. This proposal is estimated to cost $7.046 billion over ten years.
Long-term extension and modification of solar energy and fuel cell investment tax credit. The bill extends the 30% investment tax credit for solar energy property and qualified fuel cell property and the 10% investment tax credit for microturbines for six years (through the end of 2014). It also increases the $500 per half kilowatt of capacity cap for qualified fuel cells to $1,500 per half kilowatt of capacity. The bill removes an existing limitation that prevents public utilities from claiming the investment tax credit. The bill would also provide a new 10% investment tax credit for combined heat and power systems. The bill also allows these credits to be used to offset alternative minimum tax (AMT). This proposal is estimated to cost $1.376 billion over 10 years.
Long-term extension and modification of the residential energy-efficient property credit. The bill would extend the credit for residential solar property for six years (through the end of 2014). The bill would also increase the annual credit cap (currently capped at $2,000) to $4,000. The bill would include residential small wind equipment and geothermal heat pumps as property qualifying for this credit. The bill also allows the credit to be used to offset alternative minimum tax (AMT). This proposal is estimated to cost approximately $666 million over ten years.
Sales of electric transmission property. The bill extends the present-law deferral of gain on sales of transmission property by vertically integrated electric utilities to FERC-approved independent transmission companies. Rather than recognizing the full amount of gain in the year of sale, this provision allows gain on such sales to be recognized ratably over an 8-year period. The rule applies to sales before January 1, 2010. This proposal is revenue neutral over 10 years.
New Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (“CREBs”). The bill authorizes $2 billion of new clean renewable energy bonds to finance facilities that generate electricity from the following resources: wind; closed-loop biomass; open-loop biomass; geothermal; small irrigation; hydropower; landfill gas; marine renewable; and trash combustion facilities. This $2 billion authorization will be subdivided into thirds: 1/3 will be available for qualifying projects of State/local/tribal governments; 1/3 for qualifying projects of public power providers; and 1/3 for qualifying projects of electric cooperatives. This proposal is estimated to cost $548 million over 10 years.
Carbon Mitigation Provisions
Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) demonstration projects. The bill would provide $1.5 billion of tax credits for the creation of advanced coal electricity projects and certain coal gasification projects that demonstrate the greatest potential for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology. Of these $1.5 billion of incentives, $1.25 billion would be awarded to advanced coal electricity projects and $250 million would be awarded to certain coal gasification projects. These tax credits would be awarded by Treasury through an application process, with the applicants that demonstrate the greatest carbon capture and sequestration percentage of total CO2 emissions receiving the highest priority. Applications will not be considered unless applicants can demonstrate that either their advanced coal electricity project would capture and sequester at least 65% of the facility’s carbon dioxide emissions or that their coal gasification project would capture and sequester at least 75% of the facility’s carbon dioxide emissions. Once these credits are awarded, recipients that fail to meet these minimum levels of carbon capture and sequestration would forfeit these tax credits. This proposal is estimated to cost $1.422 billion over 10 years.
Refund of certain coal excise taxes unconstitutionally collected from exporters. The Courts have determined that the Export Clause of the U.S. Constitution prevents the imposition of the coal excise tax on exported coal and, therefore, taxes collected on such exported coal are subject to a claim for refund. The bill would create a new procedure under which certain coal producers and exporters may claim a refund of these excise taxes that were imposed on coal exported from the United States. Under this procedure, coal producers or exporters that exported coal during the period beginning on or after October 1, 1990 and ending on or before the date of enactment of the bill, may obtain a refund (plus interest) from the Treasury of excise taxes paid on such exported coal and any interest accrued from the date of overpayment. _This proposal is estimated to cost $199 million over 10 years._
Solvency for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund. The bill would enact the President’s proposal to bring the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund out of debt. Under current law, an excise tax is imposed on coal at a rate of $1.10 per ton for coal from underground mines and $0.55 per ton for coal from surface mines (aggregate tax per ton capped at 4.4 percent of the amount sold by the producer). Receipts from this tax are deposited in the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which is used to pay compensation, medical and survivor benefits to eligible miners and their survivors and to cover costs of program administration. The Trust Fund is permitted to borrow from the general fund any amounts necessary to make authorized expenditures if excise tax receipts do not provide sufficient funding. Reduced rates of excise tax apply after the earlier of December 31, 2013 or the date on which the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund has repaid, with interest, all amounts borrowed from the general fund of the Treasury. The President’s Budget proposes that the current excise tax rate should continue to apply beyond 2013 until all amounts borrowed from the general fund of the Treasury have been repaid with interest. After repayment, the reduced excise tax rates of $0.50 per ton for coal from underground mines and $0.25 per ton for coal from surface mines would apply (aggregate tax per ton capped at 2 percent of the amount sold by the producer). The bill would enact the President’s proposal. This proposal is estimated to raise $1.287 billion over 10 years.
Carbon audit of the tax code. The bill directs the Secretary of the Treasury to request that the National Academy of Sciences undertake a comprehensive review of the tax code to identify the types of specific tax provisions that have the largest effects on carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions and to estimate the magnitude of those effects. This proposal has no revenue effect.
II. TRANSPORTATION AND DOMESTIC FUEL SECURITYCreates a new tax credit for cellulosic biofuels. The bill would create a new $1.01 per gallon tax credit for the production of cellulosic biofuels. This tax credit will be available through 2015. This proposal is estimated to cost $1.145 billion over ten years. Expansion of allowance for property to produce cellulosic alcohol. Under current law, taxpayers are allowed to immediately write off 50% of the cost of facilities that produce cellulosic ethanol if such facilities are placed in service before January 1, 2013. Consistent with other provisions in the bill that seek to be technology neutral, the bill would allow this write off to be available for the production of other cellulosic biofuels in addition to cellulosic ethanol. This proposal is estimated to be revenue neutral over 10 years.
Extension of biodiesel production tax credit; extension and modification of renewable diesel tax credit. The bill extends for one year (through December 31, 2009) the $1.00 per gallon production tax credits for biodiesel and the small biodiesel producer credit of 10 cents per gallon. The bill also extends for one year (through December 31, 2009) the $1.00 per gallon production tax credit for diesel fuel created from biomass. The bill eliminates the current-law disparity in credit for biodiesel and agri-biodiesel and eliminates the requirement that renewable diesel fuel must be produced using a thermal depolymerization process. As a result, the credit will be available for any diesel fuel created from biomass without regard to the process used so long as the fuel is usable as home heating oil, as a fuel in vehicles, or as aviation jet fuel. The bill also clarifies that the $1 per gallon production credit for renewable diesel is limited to diesel fuel that is produced solely from biomass. Diesel fuel that is created by co-processing biomass with other feedstocks (e.g., petroleum) will be eligible for the 50 cent per gallon tax credit for alternative fuels. This proposal is estimated to cost $456 million over 10 years.
Reduces and modifies the ethanol tax credit. The bill reduces the current-law ethanol tax credit by more than 10% from 51 cents per gallon to 45 cents per gallon. In addition to this change, the bill would also limit the extent to which denaturants (i.e., chemicals added to ethanol and other alcohol fuels to make them undrinkable) may be counted in calculating the available credit. This proposal is estimated to raise $1.327 billion over 10 years.
Plug-in electric drive vehicle credit. The bill establishes a new credit for each qualified plug-in electric drive vehicle placed in service during each taxable year by a taxpayer. The base amount of the credit is $3,000. If the qualified vehicle draws propulsion from a battery with at least 5 kilowatt hours of capacity, the credit amount is increased by $200, plus another $200 for each kilowatt hour of battery capacity in excess of 5 kilowatt hours up to 15 kilowatt hours. Taxpayers may claim the full amount of the allowable credit up to the end of the first calendar quarter after the quarter in which the manufacturer records 60,000 sales. The credit is reduced in following calendar quarters. The credit is available against the alternative minimum tax (AMT). This proposal is estimated to cost $1.056 billion over 10 years.
Incentives for idling reduction units and advanced insulation for heavy trucks. The bill provides an exemption from the heavy vehicle excise tax for the cost of idling reduction units, such as auxiliary power units (APUs), which are designed to eliminate the need for truck engine idling (e.g., to provide heating, air conditioning, or electricity) at vehicle rest stops or other temporary parking locations. The bill would also exempt the installation of advanced insulation, which can reduce the need for energy consumption by transportation vehicles carrying refrigerated cargo. Both of these exemptions are intended to reduce carbon emissions in the transportation sector. This proposal is estimated to cost $96 million over 10 years.
Restructuring of New York Liberty Zone tax credits. The bill would implement a proposal included in the President’s FY 2009 Budget to provide the City of New York and the State of New York with tax credits for expenditures made for transportation infrastructure projects connecting with the New York Liberty Zone. This proposal is estimated to cost $1.117 billion over 10 years.
Fringe benefit for bicycle commuters. The bill allows employers to provide employees that commute to work using a bicycle limited fringe benefits to offset the costs of such commuting (e.g., bicycle storage). This proposal is estimated to cost $10 million over 10 years.
Extension and increase of alternative refueling stations tax credit. The bill increases the 30% alternative refueling property credit (capped at $30,000) to 50% (capped at $50,000). The credit provides a tax credit to businesses (e.g., gas stations) that install alternative fuel pumps, such as fuel pumps that dispense E85 fuel. The bill also extends this credit through the end of 2010. This proposal is estimated to cost $156 million over ten years.
Comprehensive study of biofuels. The bill directs the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Energy and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, to request that the National Academy of Sciences produce an analysis of current scientific findings relating to the future production of biofuels and the domestic effects of a dramatic increase in the production of biofuels. This proposal has no revenue effect.
III. ENERGY CONSERVATION AND EFFICIENCY
Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds. The bill creates a new category of tax credit bonds to finance State and local government programs and initiatives designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There is a national limitation of $3 billion which is allocated to States, municipalities and tribal governments. This proposal is estimated to cost $1.027 billion over 10 years.
Extension and modification of credit for energy-efficiency improvements to existing homes. The bill extends the tax credits for energy-efficient existing homes for one year (through December 31, 2008) and includes energy-efficient biomass fuel stoves as a new class of energy-efficient property eligible for a consumer tax credit of $300. This proposal is estimated to cost $1.061 billion over 10 years.
Extension of energy-efficient commercial buildings. The bill extends the energy-efficient commercial buildings deduction for five years (through December 31, 2013). This proposal is estimated to cost $891 million over 10 years.
Modification and extension of energy-efficient appliance credit. The bill would modify the existing energy-efficient appliance credit and extend this credit for three years (through the end of 2010). This proposal is estimated to cost $323 million over 10 years.
Accelerated depreciation for smart meters and smart grid systems. The bill would provide accelerated depreciation for smart electric meters and smart electric grid systems. Under current law, taxpayers are generally able to recover the cost of this property over the course of 20 years. The bill would cut the cost recovery time in half by allowing taxpayers to recover the cost of this property over a 10-year period. This proposal is estimated to cost $921 million over 10 years.
Extension and modification of qualified green building and sustainable design project bond. The bill would extend the authority to issue qualified green building and sustainable design project bonds through the end of 2012. Authority to issues these bonds is currently set to expire on September 30, 2009. The bill would also clarify the application of the reserve account rules to multiple bond issuances. This proposal is estimated to cost $45 million over 10 years.
EXTENSION OF TEMPORARY TAX PROVISIONS
I. EXTENDERS PRIMARILY AFFECTING INDIVIDUALS
Extension of the deduction of State and local general sales taxes. The bill extends for one year (through 2008) the election to take an itemized deduction for State and local general sales taxes in lieu of the itemized deduction permitted for State and local income taxes. This proposal is estimated to cost $1.742 billion over 10 years.
Extension of above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses. The bill extends the above-the-line tax deduction for qualified education expenses for one year (through 2008). For tax year 2007, the maximum deduction was $4,000 for taxpayers with AGI of $65,000 or less ($130,000 for joint returns) or $2,000 for taxpayers with AGI of $80,000 or less ($160,000 for joint returns). This proposal is estimated to cost $2.603 billion over 10 years.
Extension of special rules for regulated investment companies. The bill would for one year (through 2008) extend the tax treatment of interest-related dividends, short-term capital gain dividends, and other special rules applicable to foreign shareholders that invest in regulated nvestment companies. This proposal is estimated to cost $81 million over 10 years.
Extension of provision encouraging contributions of capital gain real property made for conservation purposes. The bill would extend for one year (through 2008) the increased contribution limits and carryforward period for amounts in excess of these limits for contributions of appreciated real property (including partial interests in real property) for conservation purposes. This proposal is estimated to cost $54 million over 10 years.
Extension of tax-free distributions from individual retirement plans for charitable purposes. The bill would extend for one year (through 2008) the provision that permits tax-free charitable contributions from an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) of up to $100,000 per taxpayer, per taxable year. This proposal is estimated to cost $465 million over 10 years.
Extension of above-the-line deduction for certain expenses of elementary and secondary school teachers. The bill extends for one year the $250 above-the-line tax deduction for teachers and other school professionals for expenses paid or incurred for books, supplies (other than nonathletic supplies for courses of instruction in health or physical education, computer equipment (including related software and services), other equipment, and supplementary materials used by the educator in the classroom for one year (i.e., to expenses paid or incurred in 2008). This proposal is estimated to cost $204 million over 10 years.
Extension of election to include combat pay in earned income for purposes of the earned income credit. The bill extends for one year (through 2008) the special rules that allow members of the armed services to include their combat pay in their earned income in order to qualify for the earned income tax credit. This proposal is estimated to cost $20 million over 10 years.
Extension of special rules for qualified mortgage bonds for veterans. The bill extends for one year (through 2008) the special rules that allows veterans to qualify for State-operated, tax-exempt mortgage revenue bond programs to provide lower-income individuals with access to mortgages with lower interest costs without regard to first-time home buyer requirement. This proposal is estimated to cost $158 million over 10 years.
Extension of special rules for distributions from retirement plans to individuals called to active duty. The bill extends for one year (through 2008) special rules that permit active duty reservists to make penalty-free withdrawals from retirement plans. This proposal is estimated to cost less than $500,000 over 10 years.
Reinstate the exclusion of amounts received under qualified group legal services plans. The bill reinstates for one year (through 2008) a provision that allows individuals to exclude certain amounts received under qualified group legal services plans from income. This proposal is estimated to cost $40 million over 10 years.
II. EXTENDERS PRIMARILY AFFECTING BUSINESSESExtension of R&D credit. The bill extends the research credit for one year (through 2008). This proposal is estimated to cost $8.761 billion over 10 years.
Extension of Indian employment credit. The bill extends for one year (through 2008) the business tax credit for employers of qualified employees that work and live on or near an Indian reservation. The credit is for wages and health insurance costs paid to qualified employees (up to $20,000) in the current year over the amount paid in 1993. Wages for which the work opportunity tax credit is available are not qualified wages for the Indian employment tax credit. This proposal is estimated to cost $59 million over 10 years.
Extension of New Markets Tax Credit. The bill extends for one year (through 2009) the new markets tax credit, permitting a $3.5 billion maximum annual amount of qualified equity investments. This proposal is estimated to cost $1.315 billion over 10 years.
Extension of railroad track maintenance credit. The bill extends for one year (through 2008) the railroad track maintenance credit. The railroad track maintenance credit provides Class II and Class III railroads (e.g., short-line railroads) with a tax credit equal to 50 percent of gross expenditures for maintaining railroad tracks that they own or lease. This proposal is estimated to cost $165 million over 10 years.
Extension of 15-year straight-line cost recovery for qualified leasehold improvements and qualified restaurant improvements. The bill would extend for one year (through 2008) the special 15-year cost recovery period for certain leasehold and qualified restaurant improvements. Absent an extension of this provision, the cost recovery period for these facilities would be 39 years. This proposal is estimated to cost $5.399 billion over 10 years.
Extension of 7-year straight-line cost recovery period for motorsports entertainment complexes. The bill would extend for one year (through 2008) the special 7-year cost recovery period for property used for land improvement and support facilities at motorsports entertainment complexes. Absent an extension of this provision, the cost recovery period for these facilities would be 15 years. This proposal is estimated to cost $48 million over 10 years.
Extension of accelerated depreciation for business property on an Indian reservation. The bill would extend for one year (through 2008) the placed-in-service date for the special depreciation recovery period for qualified Indian reservation property. In general, qualified Indian reservation property is property used predominantly in the active conduct of a trade or business within an Indian reservation, which is not used outside the reservation on a regular basis and was not acquired from a related person. _ This proposal is estimated to cost $152 million over 10 years.
Extension of expensing of “brownfields” environmental remediation costs. The bill would extend for one year (through 2008) the provision that allows for the expensing of costs associated with cleaning up hazardous (“brownfield”) sites. This proposal is estimated to cost $178 million over 10 years.
Extension of deduction allowable with respect to income attributable to domestic production activities in Puerto Rico. The bill would extend for one year (through 2008) the provision extending the section 199 domestic production activities deduction to activities in Puerto Rico. This proposal is estimated to cost $116 million over 10 years.
Extension of special tax treatment of certain payments to controlling exempt organizations. The bill would extend for one year (through 2008) the special rules for interest, rents, royalties and annuities received by a tax exempt entity from a controlled entity. This proposal is estimated to cost $35 million over 10 years.
Reauthorization of Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABs). The bill allows an additional $400,000,000 of QZAB issuing authority to State and local governments, which can be used to finance renovations, equipment purchases, developing course material, and training teachers and personnel at a qualified zone academy. In general, a qualified zone academy is any public school (or academic program within a public school) below college level that is located in an empowerment zone or enterprise community and is designed to cooperate with businesses to enhance the academic curriculum and increase graduation and employment rates. QZABs are a form of tax credit bonds which offer the holder a Federal tax credit instead of interest. The bill would improve the marketability of these bonds by modifying the current-law arbitrage restrictions. This proposal is estimated to cost $202 million over 10 years.
Extension of tax incentives for investment in the District of Columbia. The bill extends the designation of certain economically depressed census tracts within the District of Columbia as the District of Columbia Enterprise Zone. Businesses and individual residents within this enterprise zone are eligible for special tax incentives. The bill would also extend the $5,000 first-time homebuyer credit for the District of Columbia. The bill would extend both of these provisions for one year (through 2008). This proposal is estimated to cost $129 million over 10 years.
Extension of American Samoa economic development credit. The bill extends for one year (through 2008) the American Samoa economic development credit. In general, this credit provides certain domestic corporations operating in American Samoa with a possessions tax credit to offset their U.S. tax liability on income earned in American Samoa from active business operations, sales of assets used in a business, or certain investments in American Samoa. This proposal is estimated to cost $16 million over 10 years.
Extension of enhanced charitable deduction for contributions of food inventory. The bill would extend for one year (through 2008) the provision allowing businesses to claim an enhanced deduction for the contribution of food inventory. This proposal is estimated to cost $71 million over 10 years.
Enhanced charitable deduction for contributions of book inventories to public schools. The bill would extend for one year (through 2008) the provision allowing C corporations to claim an enhanced deduction for contributions of book inventory to public schools (kindergarten through grade 12). This proposal is estimated to cost $31 million over 10 years.
Extension of enhanced deduction for corporate contributions of computer equipment for educational purposes. The bill would extend for one year (through 2008) a provision that encourages businesses to contribute computer equipment and software to elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools by allowing an enhanced deduction for such contributions. This proposal is estimated to cost $260 million over 10 years.
Extension of special rule for S corporations making charitable contributions of property. The bill would extend for one year (through 2008) the provision allowing S corporation shareholders to take into account their pro rata share of charitable deductions even if such deductions would exceed such shareholder’s adjusted basis in the S corporation. The bill would also make a technical correction clarifying the application of this provision. This proposal is estimated to cost $62 million over 10 years.
Extension of work opportunity tax credit for Hurricane Katrina employees. The bill would extend for one year (through 2008) the provision that expired in August of 2007 which allowed employers to claim the work opportunity tax credit for hiring employees who were affected by Hurricane Katrina. This proposal is estimated to cost $16 million over 10 years.
Extension of active financing exception. The bill extends the active financing exception from Subpart F of the tax code for one year (through 2009). This proposal is estimated to cost $3.970 billion over 10 years.
Extend look-through treatment of payments between related controlled foreign corporations. The bill extends the current law look-through treatment of payments between related controlled foreign corporations for one year (through 2009). This proposal is estimated to cost $611 million over 10 years.
Extend special expensing rules for certain film and television productions. The bill would extend the current law special expensing rules for U.S. film and television productions for one year (through 2009). This proposal is estimated to cost $10 million over 10 years.
III. OTHER EXTENDERSExtension of disclosures of certain tax return information. The bill would permanently extend the current-law terrorist activity disclosure provisions and the authority for purposes of coordination with the Department of Veterans Affairs. This proposal estimated to have no revenue effect.
Extension of authority for undercover operations. The bill would permanently extend the authorization for the IRS to engage in certain activities related to undercover operations, such as purchasing property, organizing business entities and use the proceeds from an undercover operation to pay additional expenses incurred in the undercover operation. This proposal is estimated to have a negligible revenue effect.
Extension of temporary increase in limit on cover over of run excise tax revenues to Puerto Rico and the Virgin islands. The bill extends for one year the provision providing for payment of $13.25 per gallon to cover over a $13.50 per proof gallon excise tax on distilled spirits produced in or imported into the United States. This proposal is estimated to cost $96 million over 10 years.
Extension of tax on failure to comply with mental health parity requirements applicable to group health plans. The bill extends on a prospective basis through the end of 2008 the $100 per day excise tax on group health plans that impose limits on mental health benefits that are not imposed on medical and surgical benefits. _This proposal is estimated to cost $25 million over 10 years._
ADDITIONAL TAX RELIEF
I. INDIVIDUAL TAX RELIEFAdditional standard deduction for real property taxes. The bill would provide an additional standard deduction for State and local real property taxes paid or accrued by taxpayers who claim the regular standard deduction. The maximum amount that may be claimed under this provision is $700 for joint filers and $350 for individuals. This proposal applies only for 2008. This proposal is estimated to cost $1.174 billion over 10 years.
Change in refundable child credit. The bill would increase the eligibility for the refundable child tax credit in 2008. The child tax credit is refundable to the extent of 15 percent of the taxpayer’s earned income in excess of approximately $12,050 as a result of inflation adjustments to the original floor of $10,000. The bill would reduce this floor to $8,500 for 2008. This proposal is estimated to cost $3.129 billion over 10 years.
Extension and modification of AMT credit allowance against incentive stock options (ISOs). Exercise of an ISO is a preference in the individual minimum tax. The amount of the preference is the difference between the market price on the date of exercise and the option price. In the past, many individuals exercised these options and there were dramatic reductions in the value of the stock after exercise. These individuals found that their minimum tax liability far exceeded any gain from the exercise of the option. The bill would waive past underpayments and would guarantee that minimum tax actually paid on the exercise of these options would be returned to the taxpayer. This proposal is estimated to cost $2.291 billion over 10 years.
II. BUSINESS-RELATED PROVISIONSUniform treatment of attorney-advanced expenses and court costs in contingency fee cases. Under current law, the tax treatment of attorney-advanced expenses and court costs in contingency fee cases depends on whether the contingency fee is structured as a “net” fee (i.e., the attorney’s compensation is based on a percentage of the gross recovery in the litigation net of the advanced litigation costs) or as a “gross” fee (i.e., the attorney’s compensation is based on a percantage of the gross recovery without regard to the amount of advanced litigation costs). Where the contingency fee is structured as a “gross” fee, the attorney is allowed to take a current deduction for advanced litigation costs as they are paid. Where the contingency fee is structured as a “net” fee, the attorney is not allowed to take a current deduction for advanced litigation costs. The bill would conform the tax treatment of “net” fee arrangements to the tax treatment of “gross” fee arrangements by allowing all advanced litigation costs to be deducted currently by the attorney. This proposal is estimated to cost $1.572 billion over 10 years.
Provisions related to film and television productions. Under current law, taxpayers have not been able to take full advantage of tax incentives that are intended to encourage film and television companies to produce films here in the United States rather than overseas because of a number of technical issues. The bill would fix these issues. This proposal is estimated to cost $468 million over 10 years.
Modification of penalty on understatement of taxpayer’s liability by tax return preparer. The bill would conform the penalty standards for return preparers with the standards for taxpayers. For undisclosed positions, the penalty standard for return preparers is reduced to substantial authority. For disclosed positions, a return preparer generally must have a reasonable basis for the position. For positions involving tax shelters and certain reportable transactions, a return preparer must have a reasonable belief that the position would more likely than not be sustained on the merits. This proposal is estimated to cost $22 million over ten years.
III. EXTENSION AND EXPANSION OF CERTAIN GO ZONE INCENTIVESExtension and Expansion of Certain Gulf Opportunity (GO) Zone Incentives. The bill would allow taxpayers in affected GO Zone areas to amend prior returns to take into account receipt of hurricane-related recovery grants, waive the start-construction deadline for certain property eligible for bonus deprecation in the GO Zone, and allow projects in two additional counties in Alabama to qualify for tax-exempt bond financing. This provision is estimated to cost $1.333 billion over ten years.
Current inclusion of deferred compensation paid by certain tax indifferent parties. *The bill would tax individuals on a current basis if such individuals receive deferred compensation from a tax indifferent party. Current law generally allows executives and other employees to defer paying tax on compensation until the compensation is paid. This deferral is made possible by rules that require the corporation paying the deferred compensation to defer the deduction that relates to this compensation until the compensation is paid. Matching the timing of the deduction with the income inclusion ensures that the executive is not able to achieve the tax benefits of deferred compensation at the expense of the Treasury. Instead, the corporation paying the compensation bears the expense of paying deferred compensation as a result of the deferred deduction. Where an individual is paid deferred compensation by a tax indifferent party (such as an offshore corporation in a tax haven jurisdiction), there is no offsetting deduction that can be deferred. As a result, individuals receiving deferred compensation from a tax indifferent party are able to achieve the tax benefits of deferred compensation at the expense of the Treasury. This proposal is estimated to raise $24.289 billion over 10 years.
Delay implementation of worldwide allocation of interest.* In 2004, Congress provided taxpayers with an election to take advantage of a liberalized rule for allocating interest expense between United States sources and foreign sources for purposes of determining a taxpayer’s foreign tax credit limitation. Although enacted in 2004, this election is not available to taxpayers until taxable years beginning after 2008. The bill would delay the phase-in of this new liberalized rule for ten years (for taxable years beginning after 2018). This proposal is estimated to raise $29.962 billion over 10 years.
The House Ways and Means Committee will likely take up the new package next week and will bring it to the floor sometime before Memorial Day, Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) told reporters yesterday. The renewable energy package will be part of a broader multibillion dollar package of “tax extenders” for various items that are set to expire this year.
“Before the Memorial Day break, we will be bringing to the floor a comprehensive energy tax package that promotes research and development and promotes efficiency,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said yesterday. “The resources are there, the motivation is real, and I think they have reached some level of agreement with the Senate,” she added.
Sen. Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has included the renewable tax credits with a package that would also extend tax credits against the Alternative Minimum Tax, the Alternative Minimum Tax and Extenders Tax Relief Act of 2008 (S. 2886).
Neither effort provides funding mechanisms.
Yesterday morning, the Senate passed the Ensign-Cantwell clean energy package (S.Amdt 4419) by a vote of 88-8. The package is attached to Sen. Chris Dodd’s (D-Conn.) Foreclosure Prevention Act (S. Amdt 4387 to H.R. 3221), which was approved 84-12.
The future of the energy package now depends on whether the House is willing to consider it a “stimulus” that merits deficit spending.
The eight senators in opposition were Sens. Alexander (R-Tenn.), Bunning (R-Ky.), Byrd (D-W.Va.), Carper (D-Del.), Dodd (D-Conn.), Kyl (R-Ariz.), Sessions (R-Ala.), and Voinovich (R-Ohio). Alexander and Kyl’s alternate version of the package (S. Amdt 4429), which would have extended credits by another year and lowered the wind production credit, died by a 15-79 vote. Dodd had vigorously argued that the renewable tax package was not germane to his housing bill.
Not voting were the three presidential candidates and Sen. Liddy Dole (R-S.C.).
The Senate is meeting this afternoon to resume consideration of Sen. Chris Dodd’s (D-Conn.) Foreclosure Prevention Act (S. Amdt 4387 to H.R. 3221).
On the docket for consideration today is the Ensign-Cantwell amendment (S.Amdt 4419), the latest attempt by Congress to continue renewable and energy efficiency tax incentives due to expire this year. The details of the package offered by Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) were first reported by Hill Heat last week.
Also up for consideration is Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R-Tenn.) and Jon Kyl’s (R-Ariz.) second-degree amendment (S. Amdt 4429), which would extend the tax credits from 2009 to 2011 and tweak the marine energy and trash combustion credits.
CQ reported that Sen. Dodd exploded on the floor last week in opposition to efforts to include extensions of the clean energy tax credits, saying “This is a housing bill! This isn’t a Christmas tree! It’s a housing bill! I’m going to oppose every one of these [unrelated amendments] from here on out.”
Dodd did not note the irony that the housing package is being considered as a completely unrelated replacement substitute to the House’s Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act (H.R. 3221), which would have rolled back tax breaks for oil companies in order to pay for the renewable tax incentives (and has been blocked repeatedly in the Senate, most recently in February). The Ensign-Cantwell amendment does not provide any funding mechanism for the tax credit continuation, and would violate pay-go rules. The Alexander-Kyl amendment would exacerbate the funding problem.
According to a report in CQ Tuesday, the Senate deadlock on the renewable tax-credit package may have broken, led by efforts by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and John Ensign (R-Nev.). Ensign told reporters he expects “a big announcement” on Thursday.
Details of the renewable incentives have been released, but not the full package, including revenue provisions (that is, is oil company tax breaks will be rolled back) and other elements that have been in previous iterations, such as benefits for the coal industry.A summary:
- The renewable energy production tax credit (PTC) is extended one year to 2009 and modified to include tidal power
- The solar and fuel cell investment tax credit (ITC) is extended 8 years to 2016
- The residential energy-efficient property credit is extended one year to 2009, and the $2,000 cap is removed
- Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) are extended one year to 2009, with an additional $400 million authorized
- The 10% ITC for energy-efficiency improvements to existing homes is extended one year to 2009
- The contractor tax credit for energy-efficient new homes is extended two years to 2010
- The energy-efficient commercial buildings deduction is extended one year to 2009 and increases the $1.80/sqft max to $2.25/sqft
- The energy-efficient appliance credit is extended to 2010
The full language explaining the incentives is after the jump.
The Senate’s deadlock over tax breaks for renewable energy may be ending.Description of clean energy and energy effiency incentives in the Cantwell-Ensign package:
Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., said negotiators have made progress, and he expects a “big announcement” Thursday.
Ensign and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., have been working on a package of tax incentives, including extensions of credits for producing electricity from wind and sunlight.
Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., also sounded upbeat.
“There is a very good chance, compared to before we broke for the break, that we are going to get a significant extenders package paid for,” Baucus said. “We’re working with both sides to get that done.”
Energy tax packages have failed repeatedly on the Senate floor, including a $22 billion version that fell one vote short of winning approval as an amendment to a broader energy bill (PL 110-140) in December.
Republicans have complained about the revenue-raising offsets in the Democratic proposals, which would hit the oil and gas industry. It’s unclear how any Cantwell-Ensign proposal would overcome that hurdle.
Industry sources were encouraged but cautious Tuesday, and they continue to worry about losing tax benefits that are scheduled to expire Dec. 31.
“It’s all about urgency,” said Greg Wetstone of the American Wind Energy Association. “We’re looking at an industry that’s been on a phenomenal growth path that is threatened now with tremendous policy uncertainty.”
Purpose: To provide for the limited continuation of clean energy production incentives and incentives to improve energy efficiency in order to prevent a downturn in these sectors that would result from a lapse in the tax law.
Title I – Extension of Clean Energy Production Incentives
Section 101. Extension and modification of the renewable energy production tax credit (IRC Section 45). Under current law, an income tax credit is allowed for the production of electricity using renewable energy resources, like wind, biomass, geothermal, small irrigation power, landfill gas, trash combustion, and hydropower facilities. A taxpayer may generally claim a credit for 10 years, beginning on the date the qualified facility is placed in service. In order to qualify, however, facilities must be placed in service by December 31, 2008.
The bill extends the placed in service date for one year (through December 31, 2009). It also redefines small irrigation power to include marine and hydrokinetic energy, and enables the credit to help reduce the cost of renewable electricity that is ultimately sold to utility customers when the utility itself is also a part owner of the renewable facility.
Section 102. Extension and modification of the solar energy and fuel cell investment tax credit (“ITC”) (IRC Section 48). Under current law, taxpayers can claim a 30 percent business energy credit for purchases of qualified solar energy property and qualified fuel cell power plants. In addition, a 10 percent credit for purchase of qualifying stationary microturbine power plants is available. The credit for qualified fuel cell power plant property is capped at $500 per 0.5 kilowatt of capacity. Credits apply to periods after December 31, 2005 and before January 1, 2008.
The bill enables taxpayers to claim the 30 percent business credit for the purchase of fuel cell power plants and solar energy property and the 10 percent credit for stationary microturbines, through December 31, 2016. In addition, the bill repeals the $500 per .5 kilowatt of capacity cap for qualified fuel cell power plant property, and allows electric utilities to claim the ITC.
Section 103. Extension and modification of the residential energy-efficient property credit (IRC Section 25D). Under current law, taxpayers can claim a personal tax credit for the purchase of property that uses solar energy to generate electricity for use in a dwelling unit and qualified solar water heating property that is used exclusively for purposes other than heating swimming pools and hot tubs. The credit is equal to 30 percent of qualifying expenditures, with a maximum $2,000 credit for each of these systems of property. Section 25D also provides a 30 percent credit for the purchase of qualified fuel cell power plants. The credit for any fuel cell may not exceed $500 for each 0.5 kilowatt of capacity. The credit applies to property placed in service prior to January 1, 2009.
The bill extends the credit for residential solar property for one year (through December 31, 2009) and repeals the $2,000 credit cap for qualified solar electric property. The bill also allows the tax credit to offset Alternative Minimum Tax (“AMT”) liability.
Section 104. Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (“CREBs”) (IRC Section 54). Under current law, public power and consumer-owned utilities that cannot benefit from tax credits can issue Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) to help them reduce the cost of renewable energy investments. Under current law, there is a national CREB limitation of $1.2 billion in bonding authority and CREBs must be issued before December 31, 2008.
This bill authorizes an additional $400 million of CREBs that may be issued and extends the authority to issue such bonds through December 31, 2009. In addition, the bill allocates 1/3 of the additional bonds for qualifying projects of State/local/tribal governments; 1/3 for qualifying projects of public power providers; and 1/3 for qualifying projects of electric cooperatives.
Section 105. Extension of the special rule to implement FERC restructuring policy (IRC section 451(i)).
The bill extends through December 31, 2009, the present-law deferral provision that enables qualified electric utilities to recognize gain from certain transmission transactions over an 8-year period.
Title II – Extension of Incentives to Improve Energy Efficiency
Section 201. Extension and modification of the credit for energy-efficiency improvements to existing homes (IRC section 25C). Current law provides a 10 percent investment tax credit for purchases of advanced main air circulating fans, natural gas, propane, or oil furnaces or hot water boilers, windows and other qualified energy-efficient property. The credit applies to property placed in service prior to January 1, 2008.
The bill extends the credit for one year (through December 31, 2009), and specifies that certain pellet stoves are included as qualified energy-efficient building property.
Section 202. Extension of the tax credit for energy-efficient new homes (IRC section 45L). Current law provides a tax credit to an eligible contractor equal to the aggregate adjusted bases of all energy-efficiency property installed in a qualified new energy-efficient home during construction.
The bill extends the energy-efficient new homes credit for two years (through December 31, 2010), and permits the eligible contractor to claim the credit on a home built for personal use as a residence.
Section 203. Extension of the energy-efficient commercial buildings deduction (IRC section 179D). Current law allows taxpayers to deduct the cost of installing energy-efficient improvements in a commercial building. The deduction equals the cost of energy-efficient property installed during construction, with a maximum deduction of $1.80 per square foot of the building. In addition, a partial deduction of 60 cents per square foot applies to certain subsystems. The deduction applies to property placed in service prior to January 1, 2009.
The bill extends the deduction to property placed in service through December 31, 2009, increases the maximum deduction to $2.25 per square foot, and allows a partial deduction of 75 cents per square foot for building subsystems.
Section 204. Modification and extension of the energy-efficient appliance credit (IRC section 45M). Current law provides a credit for the eligible production of certain energy-efficient dishwashers, clothes washers, and refrigerators. The credit for dishwashers applies to dishwashers produced in 2006 and 2007 that meet the Energy Star standards for 2007.
The bill extends the credit to appliances produced in 2008, 2009, and 2010 and updates the qualifying efficiency standards in accordance with the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
Despite earlier reports that the Senate was considering inclusion of the oil-for-renewable package (H.R. 5351) in its budget reconciliation, as the budget markup begins today, the filibuster-proof strategy has been taken off the table.The National Journal reports:
While a Senate budget resolution is going to set aside $13.4 billion over five years for these renewable and efficiency credits – some of which expire this year – it merely signals that the issue is one of the priorities for Senate Democrats and does not forward debate over how to pay for those credits. . . a spokesman for Reid said he will not resurrect an energy tax debate until after lawmakers come back from the upcoming two-week Easter recess.
The Journal also reports that Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) has been tasked by Majority Leader Reid to attempt to find further Republican votes to establish a veto-proof majority for the package.CQ Politics points to Sen. Landrieu as objecting to using reconciliation:
Sen. Mary L. Landrieu , D-La., for example, is against using the process to pass renewable-energy tax breaks if they lead to tax hikes on oil and gas companies.
Sen. Landrieu cast a deciding vote against the oil-for-renewable tax package during the 2007 energy bill debate.
The decision by Senate leaders not to pursue a filibuster-proof budget reconciliation plan removes one option for moving billions of dollars of renewable energy and efficiency tax breaks funded by repealing incentives for oil and gas companies.
While a Senate budget resolution is going to set aside $13.4 billion over five years for these renewable and efficiency credits – some of which expire this year – it merely signals that the issue is one of the priorities for Senate Democrats and does not forward debate over how to pay for those credits.
A reconciliation bill would have sent detailed instructions to committees on how to pay for that spending and would have been immune to a filibuster.
The budget resolution also includes $3.5 billion in discretionary funding for energy above President Bush’s FY09 request, which Senate Budget Chairman Conrad touted as “a very big increase; I think the biggest increase in more than 30 years.”
Senate Democrats are trying to overcome Republican opposition to scaling back billions in incentives for oil and gas companies to pay for the popular renewable and efficiency credits. Democrats in December fell one vote short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster of a $21.8 billion proposal that reduced oil and gas incentives by about $13 billion.
A politically problematic $18 billion House-passed renewable energy tax proposal is pending, but few are optimistic that it could become law given a White House veto threat. This is leading to some brainstorming on other means of getting these credits extended quickly.
Majority Leader Reid has tasked Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., with helping find another Republican vote or two. Cantwell, who pushed for a one-year $5.5 billion renewable and efficiency tax package as part of a failed Finance Committee economic stimulus plan, said a similar smaller package should be considered. “There’s nothing preventing us from looking at the bigger package – see what the president does – but still work toward a smaller package too,” she said.
Cantwell said “the challenge is to still try to save investment in ‘08,” and extend the tax incentives within the next month or so.
This is the basic message of a broad coalition of businesses, renewable energy groups, environmentalists, labor unions and others who are taking advantage of an international renewable energy conference in Washington this week to do some cohesive lobbying to extend these credits by the end of the month.
But a spokesman for Reid said he will not resurrect an energy tax debate until after lawmakers come back from the upcoming two-week Easter recess.
Several industry officials say they are not requesting that Congress follow a particular strategy for quickly extending the renewable and efficiency incentives.
“We basically said Congress should figure this out,” said Dan Reicher, former assistant Energy secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy under President Clinton and now director of climate change and energy initiatives at Google.org.
“We have tried to stick to a pretty simple approach – extend the credits quickly and extend them for a long period of time.”
But the political problems associated with repealing the billions in oil and gas incentives means the solution to getting an extension through fast is potentially undefined.
“The answer is, you need some new and original thinking here,” said Marchant Wentworth, legislative representative for the Clean Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
While Cantwell has talked about doing a smaller package to gain support and possibly avoid a veto threat, Wentworth cautioned that there does not appear to be a magic number to achieve that.
“The question we all face is, are there new votes that you would get? These are leadership-driven; it’s unclear to me that lowering the incentives gets you anything,” he said.
In the meantime, a wide variety of groups and companies – including retail giant Wal-Mart, the Real Estate Roundtable, Dow Chemical and DuPont – are targeting congressional leaders and several Senate Republicans to vote for extending the credits regardless of whether it affects oil and gas company incentives.
Among Republicans being targeted are Sens. John Ensign of Nevada, John Sununu of New Hampshire, Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Richard Lugar of Indiana.
Lugar and Murkowski voted against the filibuster in December. Renewable energy groups might also get a rare chance to lobby Bush personally when he speaks today at the 2008 Washington International Renewable Energy Conference.