With extenders package through committee, Wyden sees ‘springboard’ to reform

Source: Nick Juliano, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, April 4, 2014

The Finance Committee this afternoon wrapped up what its chairman hopes will be the last session it will convene on the tangle of technically temporary but regularly renewed tax incentives collectively known as extenders.

Now, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is encouraged that this exercise will provide a “springboard” to consider a full overhaul of the tax code in the next couple of years. However, he first needs the extenders bill to make it through the full Senate and House, where it is likely to encounter more resistance than during this afternoon’s markup, which ended with a nearly unanimous voice vote in favor of renewing the 50 expired or expiring extenders.

Among the temporary breaks renewed in the extenders bill was the production tax credit for wind and other forms of renewable energy, credits to make homes and commercial buildings more energy-efficient, and a suite of alternative fuels credits (Greenwire, April 3).

Wyden said it is up to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to bring the bill to the Senate floor, and he did not speculate on how quickly that would happen. The Finance chairman also said he had spoken earlier this week with his House counterpart, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), who is embarking on a separate effort to consider what extenders should be continued.

He would not provide details on those discussions aside from stressing Reid’s previous support for enacting new extenders legislation this year.

At the end of today’s markup, the committee shifted subcommittee assignments to account for its new makeup in the wake of Max Baucus’ resignation last year. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) is now chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy, Natural Resources and Infrastructure, taking over for Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

Wyden pledged repeatedly in the run-up to and during the markup that this would be the last time extenders are considered in isolation, a sentiment many members of the panel reflected.

“The other highlight of today was the number of senators on both sides of the aisle who made it clear they want this to be the last extenders package and that they see this as a springboard to comprehensive reform,” Wyden told reporters after the hearing wrapped up.

Energy taxes will be among the areas of focus as the committee continues its work this year, Wyden said. Among the issues raised this morning were calls to provide the same eligibility requirements to solar and wind developers seeking separate tax credits and to establish parity between how diesel fuel and liquefied natural gas is taxed.

The LNG-diesel discrepancy, which arises because the fuels are subject to the same per-gallon tax but provide different amounts of energy per gallon, is likely to get the quickest attention; Wyden said it would be addressed as Finance turns its attention to the Highway Trust Fund. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) offered an amendment today to fix the problem but withdrew it because it was outside the scope of the extenders bill.

“His views and mine are very similar,” Wyden said of the Burr amendment, which was co-sponsored by Bennet. “I mean, they really move us to a level playing field and as close to parity on these energy sources as we can.”