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 CarperTrump Jr. to Dem Senator: 'You admitted to hitting your wife so hard it gave her a black eye!' Melania Trump's spokeswoman gets Hatch Act warning for #MAGA tweet EPA to abandon restrictions against chemical linked to climate change MORE (D-Del.), Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsJudiciary Democrat calls for additional witnesses to testify on Kavanaugh Kavanaugh allegations could be monster storm brewing for midterm elections      Sunday shows preview: White House officials on offensive in wake of anonymous NY Times op-ed MORE (D-Del.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampDoug Jones to McConnell: Don't 'plow right through' with Kavanaugh Heitkamp knocks GOP challenger for 'disturbing' comments on Kavanaugh allegations 5 things to know about Trump's escalating trade war with China MORE (D-N.D.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseKavanaugh accuser agrees to testify next week Dem vows to probe 'why the FBI stood down' on Kavanaugh Senate Democrats increase pressure for FBI investigation of Kavanaugh MORE (D-R.I.), Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottTrump assures storm victims in Carolinas: 'We will be there 100 percent' Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Trump to visit North Carolina on Wednesday in aftermath of Florence MORE (R-S.C.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Kim, Moon toss ball to Trump in ‘last, best chance’ for Korean peace GOP senator: Kavanaugh accuser 'moving the goalposts' 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 BlackburnThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump questions Kavanaugh accuser's account | Accuser may testify Thursday | Midterm blame game begins The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh, accuser say they’re prepared to testify The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh and his accuser will testify publicly 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 FlakeGrassley panel scraps Kavanaugh hearing, warns committee will vote without deal Coulter mocks Kavanaugh accuser: She'll only testify 'from a ski lift' Poll: More voters oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination than support it MORE (R-Ariz.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeKavanaugh accuser agrees to testify next week Reexamining presidential power over national monuments Utah group complains Mia Love should face criminal penalties for improper fundraising MORE (R-Utah), James Lankford (R-Okla.) and now Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsDem warns Trump: 'Obstruction of justice' to fire Rosenstein Donald Trump’s Rosenstein dilemma White House proposes executive order to Trump that would examine tech companies’ practices 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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