Congress Is Right To Keep Green Energy Riders Off The FAA Bill

Christine Harbin Director of Federal Affairs, Americans for Prosperity
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After months of deliberation, Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune recently announced that he and House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster are close to an agreement on legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that would run through 2017. Notably excluded from the package is an unrelated provision extending tax benefits for certain energy industries. Congressional leaders are right to let this bad deal fall apart.

These tax extenders were intentionally left on the proverbial cutting room floor in December. These provisions “were left out were left out for a reason,” Rep. Charles Boustany told Politico in March. “There was not enough consensus to put them in.” Also these provisions would be on top of $24 billion in other tax extenders that Congress recently extended, the wind production tax credit (PTC) and the solar investment tax credit (ITC).

The tax extender package passed in December was remarkably different than its predecessors because it made permanent a number of tax provisions related to capital expensing and left out many of the corporate welfare carve outs that narrowly benefit certain industries at the expense of others. This December package laid the important groundwork for comprehensive tax reform, which House Ways and Means chairman Kevin Brady is currently leading. Including these expiring tax provisions to unrelated legislation — be it FAA reauthorization or future omnibus appropriations legislation — would defeat these gains toward comprehensive tax reform passed in December.

Wide opposition to attaching green energy subsidies exists both on and off the Capitol Hill. When talks of attaching green energy tax extenders to FAA reauthorization first arose in April, my organization Americans for Prosperity, led a coalition of over 30 other free-market groups representing millions of Americans in calling on Congress to oppose the deal. Thankfully, strong opposition also existed among Congressional Republicans — Representative Marsha Blackburn sent a Dear Colleague letter to leadership with the signatures of 30 of her House colleagues, and Senators Flake, Lee, Lankford, and Sessions sent a similar letter to Senate leadership.

The problem with slipping corporate welfare as riders in unrelated legislation is that it extends the status quo, and the status quo is simply not working for the millions of Americans who continue to struggle in the down economy. Distorting the tax code to favor those with the right friends in Washington places a heavier tax burden on American families and small businesses that don’t receive preferential treatment. The symptom of these corporate welfare policies is clear outside the DC Beltway: This past month brought the worst jobs report since September 2010. People are leaving the workforce and they are scaling back their household spending.

Americans deserve to have their elected officials give substantive consideration to the problems they face and how to spend their hard-earned tax dollars. The first step is considering expiring tax provisions on their merits in standalone legislation, not slipping them into large unrelated packages under the threat of deadline.

Congress absolutely did the right thing in dropping its plans to use the FAA reauthorization as a vehicle for corporate welfare. However, this was an exception, not the rule. Congress’s continued reliance on must-pass legislation to extend programs provides consistent opportunities for them to load them up with favors for special interests. Lawmakers can keep this good thing going by seeking tax policies that work for all Americans—not just a politically-connected few.

Christine Harbin is Director of Federal Affairs and Strategic Initiatives for Americans for Prosperity.