House panel passes extenders package without PTC

Source: Daniel Bush, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, September 18, 2015

The House Ways and Means Committee passed a tax extenders package yesterday that would permanently extend several expiring tax breaks but did not include renewable energy incentives that have long been unpopular with Republican lawmakers.

The committee approved the extension of five expiring tax breaks by voice vote and passed two provisions along party lines that are aimed at reforming President Obama’s signature health care law. The package included a measure known as bonus depreciation that would allow companies to expedite tax write-offs for certain business expenses.

“Making these provisions permanent will give people the certainty they need to create more opportunity in our economy,” Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said.

Democrats said the tax breaks would add $411 billion to the federal deficit at a time when Congress is mired in yet another spending fight that could lead to a government shutdown.

“This is being proposed at a time when we are reaching the debt ceiling and the Republicans are now proposing that we push the deficit through the roof,” said Michigan Rep. Sander Levin, the panel’s top Democrat.

The committee did not address the issue of renewable energy credits at the markup, which was dominated by a debate over Obamacare and federal spending. House Republicans have long opposed subsidies for wind and solar power, arguing that Congress shouldn’t pick winners and losers in the energy sector.

Last year, Congress waited until December to extend a wind production tax credit that expired in 2013. But the PTC was a one-year, retroactive extension that expired a few weeks later at the end of 2014, disappointing wind advocates who credit the PTC with helping fuel the industry’s growth in recent years.

Solar energy supporters are also lobbying Congress to extend a 30 percent investment tax credit for commercial projects that is set to drop to 10 percent at the end of 2016. An ITC for residential solar projects will also be zeroed out in 2017 if the House and Senate don’t act by the end of next year (Greenwire, Sept. 15).

The House markup comes after the Senate Finance Committee passed its tax extenders package in July. The upper chamber’s package of 52 tax breaks included a two-year extension of renewable energy credits, but critics including Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said they would fight the measures when the bill hits the Senate floor later this year (E&ENews PM, July 21).