Monday, January 07, 2013

Environment, Energy Programs Survive Fiscal Cliff Vote

Jan 1: In a 12th-plus hour, last minute, drama-packed deal, of the 112th Congress, the so-called fiscal cliff was avoided [See WIMS 11/8/12]. Simultaneously, the new 113th Congress has set the stage for the next round of economic, regulatory and social uncertainty which will take place over the next two months on the issue of raising the U.S. debt limit to pay for expenses already incurred. The sides have drawn their lines in the sand with the President saying he will not negotiate on the debt ceiling and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) saying he will no longer negotiate with the President. The deal is contained within H.R.8, As Amended; An act entitled the "American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012" which passed the Senate with a vote of 89-8; and the House 257-167. The House vote included 172 Democrats and 85 Republicans. In announcing that he would sign the deal, President Obama indicated,:
"Under this law, more than 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses will not see their income taxes go up. Millions of families will continue to receive tax credits to help raise their kids and send them to college. Companies will continue to receive tax credits for the research that they do, the investments they make, and the clean energy jobs that they create. And 2 million Americans who are out of work but out there looking, pounding the pavement every day, are going to continue to receive unemployment benefits as long as they're actively looking for a job. . .
"Tonight's agreement further reduces the deficit by raising $620 billion in revenue from the wealthiest households in America. And there will be more deficit reduction as Congress decides what to do about the automatic spending cuts that we have now delayed for two months. . .
"But we can't simply cut our way to prosperity. Cutting spending has to go hand-in-hand with further reforms to our tax code so that the wealthiest corporations and individuals can't take advantage of loopholes and deductions that aren't available to most Americans. And we can't keep cutting things like basic research and new technology and still expect to succeed in a 21st century economy. So we're going to have to continue to move forward in deficit reduction, but we have to do it in a balanced way, making sure that we are growing even as we get a handle on our spending. 

Now, one last point I want to make -- while I will negotiate over many things, I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they've already racked up through the laws that they passed. Let me repeat: We can't not pay bills that we've already incurred. If Congress refuses to give the United States government the ability to pay these bills on time, the consequences for the entire global economy would be catastrophic -- far worse than the impact of a fiscal cliff. . ."

    A fact sheet from the White House indicated that, the agreement extend renewable energy incentives, the R&E tax credit and other business incentives. The agreement extends tax relief for businesses through the end of next year. The fact sheet indicates, "This means extending the Production Tax Credit, a key incentive for renewable energy that many Republicans had been trying to end, as well as the Research & Experimentation tax credit. In addition, the agreement extends 50 percent bonus depreciation, a cost-effective temporary measure to support investment and growth. All of these would be extended through the end of 2013." Additionally, the deal extends the farm bill through the end of the fiscal year, averting a sharp rise in milk prices at the beginning of 2013.
    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue issued a statement on the deal saying, "The last minute fiscal cliff deal prevents some of the massive tax increases on the middle class that would have occurred. However, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has warned that the tax hikes that will take place will mean slower growth, fewer jobs, and less prosperity for all Americans. And, when it comes to cutting spending and controlling the national debt, this deal does not even begin to address the serious fiscal challenges we face.

    "The new Congress and the administration must begin work immediately to slow runaway spending through structural entitlement reforms. They must also spur faster economic growth through comprehensive tax reform and a rapid expansion of American energy, which would create jobs and generate government revenues. This is the only formula that can reduce budget deficits and control our unsustainable national debt. The Chamber and the business community stand ready to work with Congress and the administration to craft and enact a fiscal package that truly addresses the nation's chronic deficits and out-of-control debt."

    The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) issued a release stating, "America's 75,000 workers in wind energy are celebrating tonight over the continuation of policies expected to save up to 37,000 jobs and create far more over time, and to revive business at nearly 500 manufacturing facilities across the country. The extension of the wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC), and Investment Tax Credits for community and offshore projects, will allow continued growth of the energy source that installed the most new electrical generating capacity in America last year, with factories or wind farms in all 50 states. The version included in tonight's deal would cover all wind projects that start construction in 2013. Companies that manufacture wind turbines and install them sought that definition to allow for the 18-24 months it takes to develop a new wind farm. . . America's wind energy workers have been living under threat of the PTC's expiration for over a year and layoffs had already begun, as companies idled factories because of a lack of orders for 2013. Uncertain federal policies have caused a "boom-bust" cycle in U.S. wind energy development for over a decade. . ."

    Franz Matzner, associate director of government affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said,
"Today, Americans can breathe a sigh of relief, thanks to the commitment by President Obama and Democratic leadership in Congress to ensure that this agreement includes new revenues and delays automatic cuts to essential programs that protect our health, our environment and our future. But arbitrary, mandatory cuts to programs that every American relies on still dangle over the nation's head -- cuts that are doubly unnecessary now that a framework is in place to raise new revenues. As Congress works out a longer-term agreement, the Republican leadership must drop its fantasy that the budget can be balanced by slashing environmental and clean energy programs that benefit every American. Furloughed workers, closed national parks, and dirtier air and water won't solve our economic woes. The nation needs a balanced plan that recognizes a healthy environment and a healthy economy go hand in hand."

    Access the complete statement from the President (click here). Access the White House fact sheet on the fiscal cliff deal (click here). Access the statement from the U.S. Chamber (click here). Access a lengthy release form AWEA (click here). Access the statement from NRDC (click here). Access an NRDC blog posting on the deal with comment opportunities (click here). Access legislative details including roll call votes for H.R.8 (click here). [#All]

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