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 CarperSenate confirms Radhika Fox to lead EPA's water office Rick Scott threatens to delay national security nominees until Biden visits border Senate panel unanimously advances key Biden cyber nominees MORE (D-Del.), Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle The Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? MORE (D-Del.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampEffective and profitable climate solutions are within the nation's farms and forests Bill Maher blasts removal of journalist at Teen Vogue Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives MORE (D-N.D.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseCentrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle Lawmakers rally around cyber legislation following string of attacks Graham, Whitehouse: Global transition to renewables would help national security MORE (D-R.I.), Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottSen. Manchin paves way for a telehealth revolution Kerry Washington backs For the People Act: 'Black and Brown voters are being specifically targeted' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Bipartisan group reaches infrastructure deal; many questions remain MORE (R-S.C.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Graham quips key to working with Trump: We both 'like him' Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle 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 BlackburnGOP senator introduces constitutional amendment to ban flag burning Fauci on Blackburn video: 'No idea what she is talking about' Pentagon report clears use of drones made by top Chinese manufacturer 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 FlakeOn The Trail: Arizona is microcosm of battle for the GOP Trump looms large over fractured Arizona GOP Why Republican politicians are sticking with Trump MORE (R-Ariz.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior Big Tech critic Lina Khan named chair of the FTC GOP senators press Justice Department to compare protest arrests to Capitol riot MORE (R-Utah), James Lankford (R-Okla.) and now Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? Border state governors rebel against Biden's immigration chaos Garland strikes down Trump-era asylum decisions 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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