Tax Bill, RE Provisions Move Toward Conference

After weeks of partisan haggling, U.S. Senate Republican and Democratic leaders have reached an agreement allowing the start of negotiations between the House of Representatives and Senate on a final version of corporate tax legislation (S.1637 / H.R.4520) that contain some vitally important measures for the renewable energy industries.

Washington, D.C. – July 21, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] Despite the corporate tax bill being what many consider “must pass” legislation, Congress has stalled on choosing conference committee members for a number of weeks. The underlying corporate tax bill is intended to bring about the lifting of European Union trade sanctions on some U.S. products (now at 9 percent) by repealing a current export tax break that has been ruled a violation of World Trade Organization free trade rules. As with most legislative processes in Congress, a number of other provisions were attached to the two versions. Each would stand to give the renewable energy industries a hefty boost. The House version (H.R. 4520) contains an extension of the production tax credit (PTC) – an item crucial to pick up the stalled U.S. wind industry. The Senate version (S. 1637) is the current vehicle for a 15 percent residential solar tax credit, as well as a means to extend the PTC and expand it to solar, geothermal, and some forms of biomass. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the agreement — involving tobacco price supports — allowed the Senate to vote July 15 to advance the corporate tax bill and to assign negotiators, or “conferees,” to the conference committee that will hammer out a final compromise version of corporate tax legislation. The agreement essentially allows the conference to begin by taking the first step of naming conferees. Under the best-case scenario, the end of September remains the earliest point at which final action could occur. It is more likely that final action will take place in a post election “lame duck” session in November. Should Congress not be able to reach final agreement on corporate tax legislation this year, the backup plan is for a simple “tax extenders” bill providing for a shorter-term extension. The Senate has named the following members of the conference committee on the corporate tax bill: Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Don Nickles (R-Okla.), Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.), Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), Jim Bunning (R-Mo.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), John Breaux (D-La.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Bob Graham (D-Fla.), Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). The House has not yet named its conferees, but is expected to do so soon. (Some information in the story courtesy of AWEA)

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