U.S. House recesses, fails to pass tax bill, leaving solar, R&D credits in doubt

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The U.S. House of Representatives recessed Monday with no deal on a major tax relief package, which includes provisions to extend the solar investment tax credits and renew the R&D tax credit, according to Associated Press.

The report says that the “House had intended to adjourn for the year on Monday, but that plan abruptly changed when lawmakers rejected the $700 billion financial bailout legislation, forcing congressional and administrative leaders to regroup and opening up the possibility that the House would return later this week or in the coming weeks to vote on a revised bailout proposal—and perhaps give them another shot at the tax bill.”

Although the Senate and House had passed the tax relief bill (which also includes provisions dealing with the alternative minimum tax, or AMT), the two chambers have not been able to reconcile their versions and reach a consensus.  

The AP report notes that lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol “stressed that the tax relief bill would create tens of thousands of jobs and contribute to the nation’s energy independence. House Democrats “insisted that more of the package, totaling $138 billion in House bills, be paid for so as not to increase the deficit. Senate Republicans, averse to new taxes, said any changes in the Senate-passed tax bill would kill the entire package.”

The Senate still plans to meet later in the week before leaving for the year, according to AP, and could conceivably try to take up the House-passed AMT fix separately.

Maggie Hershey, public policy director for SEMI, told PV-Tech via email that “my understanding is that the House is likely to adjourn quite soon without taking up the extenders bill. The situation is still quite fluid, though. [It’s] not yet certain whether there will be a lame-duck session. Given the current economic crisis, there is a good chance that they could have to come back to Washington at some point.

“SEMI is disappointed that Congress was not able to reach agreement to extend the R&D tax credit and the solar investment tax credit,” she said. “There is a great deal of bipartisan support for both of these measures.  The attention needed for the negotiations and debate on the bailout package cut into the little time left, and the House and Senate did not have enough time to resolve the remaining differences.  We hope that Congress will return in November to extend the R&D tax credit and the solar investment tax credit.

“Failure to extend these credits could have a negative impact on investment on solar and R&D in the United States, especially during this time of heightened competitiveness and growing alternative energy demand. It is not a question of whether there will be solar investment, but whether the investment will be in the United States. The United States could lose out on great opportunities if Congress does not act.

Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, echoed some of Hershey’s comments in a statement released Monday afternoon.

“We are extremely disappointed that Congress has failed to reach agreement on an extension of solar energy tax credits that are central to jumpstarting our troubled economy and putting Americans back to work. The failure by members of both parties to secure extensions of the solar tax credits ensures that the U.S. will remain in an energy crisis characterized by overdependence on foreign energy.

“While Congress prepares its hasty departure from Washington, important work remains to be completed prior to the end of the year,” he continues. “We call on both the House and Senate to return later this week to finish the tax extenders package that is vital to businesses and individuals in every corner of the country.  While it was imperative to break for a short holiday recess, there is no excuse for Congress not to complete action on these crucial tax credits to our economy by week’s end.

“The economic impact of Congress’ failure to pass the solar energy tax extenders is already being felt. Unless Congress promptly returns to complete their unfinished business, the solar industry will suffer with the loss of 39,000 jobs and $8 billion of economic investment in 2009 alone,” Resch concluded.

 Latest Developments as of 2/10/08.

— Tom Cheyney

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