Congress should just say no to more green energy handouts
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Politicians have rightly railed against pork barrel spending for years, but unfortunately, their actions don’t always match their words.

Whenever a must-pass bill crosses the floors of Congress, many of these same politicians clamor to load them up with handouts for special interests. One case in point is the ongoing effort to renew a package of tax giveaways for green energy that expired back in 2015.

Expected participants in this latest effort include Sens. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: Fewer than half of school districts test for lead | Dems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act | FEMA avoids climate change when discussing plan for future storms Dems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act Full interview: Democratic candidate Kerri Evelyn Harris discusses her Senate campaign in Delaware MORE (D-Del.), Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsHillicon Valley: EU hits Google with record B fine | Trump tries to clarify Russia remarks | Sinclair changing deal to win over FCC | Election security bill gets traction | Robocall firm exposed voter data Overnight Defense: More Trump drama over Russia | Appeals court rules against Trump on transgender ban | Boeing wins Air Force One contract | Military parade to reportedly cost M Senate resolution backs intelligence community on Russian meddling MORE (D-Del.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampElection Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas Senate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Bipartisan group introduces retirement savings legislation in Senate MORE (D-N.D.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate Dems protest vote on controversial court pick Who is Andrew Wheeler, EPA's new acting chief? Congress can protect midterm elections with the Disclose Act MORE (D-R.I.), Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottGOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE Senate takes symbolic shot at Trump tariffs Congress should prioritize diversity so government reflects Americans MORE (R-S.C.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump’s damage control falters Trump: 'I think I did great at the news conference' George Will calls Trump ‘sad, embarrassing wreck of a man’ MORE (R-S.C.). The group will reportedly seek must-pass unrelated legislative vehicles such as government funding bills and negotiations on the debt ceiling so these handouts can catch a ride.

The expired tax provisions under consideration — around $1.4 billion pertaining to things like wind power and geothermal heat pumps — are little more than corporate welfare and were wisely and intentionally allowed to expire. The $680 billion tax extender package signed into law in December 2015 made some tax provisions permanent and allowed more than two dozen others to expire at the end of that year. This was a deliberate effort to lay the groundwork for comprehensive tax reform, which lawmakers are currently negotiating.

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The practice of awarding billions to private interests through the tax code makes it harder to enact real comprehensive tax reform. Distorting the tax code to favor politically connected special interests means that regular American households and businesses across the country face a heavier tax burden. Keeping these loopholes in the tax code will impede lawmakers from bringing down marginal tax rates and broadening the tax base.

 

Despite this, quiet efforts to extend these giveaways has continued over the past two years — first on legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Authorization (FAA), and then again on a tax extenders package at the end of 2016 that never came to fruition. Proponents of extending the expired tax credits consistently argued they should have been given the same five-year extensions that other wind- and solar-related breaks received as part of the omnibus legislation, which was also signed into law in December 2015. 

Thankfully for American taxpayers, efforts to extend this “green pork” face an uphill battle in Congress. Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnElection Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas Senate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Lawmakers split over how to expand rural broadband MORE (R-Tenn.) led a “Dear Colleague” letter with 30 other House lawmakers in expressing opposition to adding in tax carve-outs for favored energy into unrelated legislation reauthorizing the FAA. On the Senate side, Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeHillicon Valley: EU hits Google with record B fine | Trump tries to clarify Russia remarks | Sinclair changing deal to win over FCC | Election security bill gets traction | Robocall firm exposed voter data Overnight Defense: More Trump drama over Russia | Appeals court rules against Trump on transgender ban | Boeing wins Air Force One contract | Military parade to reportedly cost M Senate resolution backs intelligence community on Russian meddling MORE (R-Ariz.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeWisconsin GOP Senate candidate rips his own parents for donations to Dems GOP moderates hint at smooth confirmation ahead for Kavanaugh GOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE MORE (R-Utah), James Lankford (R-Okla.) and now Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsKey GOP lawmaker throws cold water on Rosenstein impeachment With new immigration policy, Trump administration gutting the right to asylum Homeland Security advisory council members resign over family separations: report MORE sent a similar letter to Senate leadership.

Extending these expired handouts also faces strong opposition from conservative organizations. A year ago, my organization, Americans for Prosperity, led a coalition of more than 30 conservative groups in criticizing this effort, sending a letter to the Senate Finance Committee urging the committee to exclude them. We were disappointed to see the tax credits included during committee on the Senate side, but pleased to see Congress ultimately agree to exclude them.

Lawmakers should not be looking toward must-pass legislation considered under the threat of deadline as vehicles to extend expired tax subsidies for renewable energy and other industries. They should instead hold firm and oppose extending these expired subsidies in favor of permanent comprehensive tax reform.

American taxpayers shouldn’t have to prop up large, well-connected special interests through tax handouts, carve-outs and loopholes — but that’s exactly what would happen if Congress extends these credits.

Christine Harbin (@ChrissyHarbin) is vice president of external affairs for Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group that promotes for lower taxes and limited government. She leads the group’s federal lobbying efforts, including energy and environment issues.


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