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US Senate Committee Votes to Extend Tax Breaks for Wind Farms

U.S. wind farms would keep their treasured tax breaks as part of an $85 billion package of temporary tax cuts passed by a key Senate committee Thursday.

Some U.S. firms with foreign income would be winners too after Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., backed off plans to significantly trim the package.

Congress routinely passes the package of more than 50 temporary tax breaks for businesses and individuals, but they were allowed to expire at the start of the year. The Senate Finance Committee voted Thursday to extend all but two of them through 2015.

The bill passed on a voice vote, with support from both Democrats and Republicans.

Congress is expected to pass the tax package by the end of the year, so businesses and individuals can continue to claim the tax breaks when they file their 2014 taxes next year.

Wyden acknowledged that periodically extending temporary tax breaks makes it difficult for businesses and families to plan. He said he hopes to work on a comprehensive overhaul of the tax system, making some of the tax breaks permanent while eliminating others.

"Many of these extenders are well-intentioned and ought to be permanent," Wyden said. "Their stop-and-go nature obviously contributes to the lack of certainty."

But Wyden's inability to scale back the package shows how difficult it can be to cut cherished tax breaks.

"The challenge on taxes is to always try to find the common ground where you can move ahead," Wyden said after the vote.

Wyden's initial draft of the bill would have eliminated a generous tax credit for using wind farms and other renewable energy sources to produce electricity. But the credit was restored, at a cost of $13.3 billion.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, claimed credit for saving it.

"Renewable energy supports thousands of jobs and generates billions of dollars in investment across the country," Grassley said. "It's good news for the economy and for energy diversity to restore these provisions."

Democratic leaders haven’t scheduled the measure for consideration by the full Senate. In the Republican-led House of Representatives, lawmakers are focused on making some provisions permanent and repealing others.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press

Lead image: Wind turbines via Shutterstock

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