Conservative group aims to scuttle emerging extenders deal

Source: George Cahlink, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, April 7, 2016

A powerful conservative group is coming out against an emerging deal that would attach renewable tax credits to pending Senate legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration.

FreedomWorks, a group closely affiliated with the tea party movement, yesterday said it’s against any amendment to the FAA bill that extends the tax breaks.

“Rent-seeking businesses and lobbyists love crony capitalism, but voters are tired of seeing the Washington establishment pick winners and losers in the marketplace,” said FreedomWorks CEO Adam Brandon, who urged senators to oppose any amendment that “manipulates the markets by allowing these tax breaks for a politically connected industry to continue.”

The conservative group said it would count a vote on any renewable tax amendment in its legislative scorecard, which it uses in weighing financial support for lawmakers.

The opposition comes as the Senate yesterday agreed unanimously to consider the FAA bill and senators from both parties suggested there is support to attach the renewable breaks left out of last year’s omnibus spending bill.

“[Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman John] Thune [R-S.D.] and I are all hitched up to handle the FAA bill,” Sen. Bill Nelson, the panel’s ranking member, said yesterday. The Florida Democrat detailed provisions related to airport security and confirmed to reporters that a deal has been reached on renewable tax credits, a top priority for his party.

“I was just told that there is a deal,” he said.

Thune told reporters it was his understanding that the 48C investment tax credit, already extended for five years for solar but not for other qualifying sources — including biomass, geothermal and fuel-cell technology — would be expanded. It was not clear, though, what additional qualifying sources would make the cut.

Thune said he expected the bill’s tax title to be “fairly narrow,” but conceded earlier this week it would draw interest because it’s one of the few vehicles moving this year that can carry tax provisions (Greenwire, April 6).

While the Commerce Committee has the lead role in the FAA reauthorization, the Senate Finance Committee will provide the tax title, which Thune said would likely be joined on the floor through a manager’s package.

Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch sidestepped questions about tax provisions in the FAA reauthorization bill yesterday.

“There’s a lot of things up in the air on this bill,” the Utah Republican told reporters. He said the negotiations were been handled by Senate leaders.

Pressed on specifics about tax credits for biofuels or renewable energy sources, Hatch said: “I’m the last guy to talk to on this because I’m kind of trying to stay away from it.”

Reporters Hannah Hess and Geof Koss contributed.