PTC’s path forward unclear as senators huddle on extenders

Source: Nick Juliano, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Members of the Senate Finance Committee emerged from an hourlong closed-door meeting yesterday with optimism that a deal on how to handle more than 100 expiring tax provisions — including a key tax break for wind energy — could be reached this year even as they acknowledged persistent questions over how quickly agreement could be reached or what form an extenders bill would take.

“It’s just a work in progress; let’s put it that way,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters after the meeting. “No final decisions, just a very good discussion on a range of issues.”

Most senators emerging from the meeting did not discuss the proceedings with reporters who were staking out the Finance Committee hearing room last night, and those who did said the discussion was relatively broad in scope.

Extending the production tax credit for wind energy beyond its scheduled Dec. 31 expiration, which has been the industry’s No. 1 goal this year, did come up at the meeting, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) told reporters. Snowe said there was some support in the room to “extend it but to phase it out, as well,” although it was not clear whether that idea would make it into an extenders package this year.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the committee’s ranking member, said after the meeting that he thought the committee would reach a deal on the extenders, which encompass an array of temporary but often extended tax breaks that affect a broad swath of the economy. But he said that they all would have to move together and win bipartisan agreement.

“Whatever we do, whenever we do it, it’s going to have to be a sort of package, and people are going to have to agree,” he told reporters after the meeting, “because we can’t have a thousand amendments under these circumstances, which if you open it up, that’s what you’ll get and we’ll never get anything done. So we’re working on it as we speak.”

Earlier yesterday afternoon, Hatch said Congress would be “smart” to deal with the extenders, but he said the debate was more complicated given the huge number of provisions; whereas there were just a handful of extenders to be dealt with several years ago, the number of provisions has ballooned to more than 100. A package should be put together, Hatch said, “with the understanding that we’re really going to look at them to determine what we should keep and what we shouldn’t.”

Before yesterday’s meeting, Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said it was meant to allow committee members to “develop some trust” and start sorting through the extenders to determine what should stay and what should go (E&ENews PM, June 12).