What: All Issues : Justice for All: Civil and Criminal : Assisting Crime Impacted Communities : S Con Res 21. (Fiscal 2008 budget resolution), Conrad of North Dakota amendment on renewable energy/On agreeing to the amendment
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S Con Res 21. (Fiscal 2008 budget resolution), Conrad of North Dakota amendment on renewable energy/On agreeing to the amendment
senate Roll Call 97     Mar 22, 2007
Y = Conservative
N = Progressive
Winning Side:
Progressive

This vote occurred on an amendment by Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., that would create a reserve fund for renewable energy and energy efficiency tax incentives.

It was offered to the budget resolution that serves as the blueprint for Congress' budget priorities in fiscal 2008. The budget resolution sets overall spending targets for the Appropriations committees and outlines other budget rules. The budget resolution also typically contains several "reserve funds" that provide some spending flexibility for certain designated programs. Primarily, the funding levels for programs associated with these reserve funds can be adjusted even after the budget resolution is enacted into law, upon the agreement of the House and Senate Budget committees. This allows Congress to potentially spend more money on these programs than they had intended when Congress passed the budget resolution, without violating budget rules.

Conrad's amendment was offered as a the Democratic response to another renewable energy amendment offered earlier by Norm Coleman, R-Minn. Coleman's amendment would have extended renewable energy and energy efficiency tax incentives expiring in 2008, as well as allocating $1.2 billion in bonding authority for clean renewable energy bonds. Conrad said he found the goals of Coleman's amendment laudable, but that its funding mechanism was flawed because it would draw from a fund (called a "920 fund") whose money is already obligated to other programs.

"I would inquire of the Senator if he would be open to a different pay-for. Let me express why I am concerned about it. The pay-for the senator has offered is section 920, and section 920 is about, at this point, fully subscribed," Conrad said. He went on to say that the effect of Coleman's amendment would be to cut funding for veterans, homeland security and law enforcement that are also paid for out of this 920 fund, and that his language would not survive through to enactment in any case.

"Instead, to try to accomplish the goal, I have offered those same provisions, paid for by a deficit-neutral reserve fund. That gives the committees of jurisdiction the widest latitude to pay for the initiatives that are deserving and important," Conrad said.

Coleman countered that a reserve fund doesn't actually guarantee any funding will be available for the programs, only that if it is found in the future that funding won't run afoul of budget rules limiting spending to certain levels.

"The problem is, with the reserve fund there is no certainty. You cannot take the reserve fund to the bank. That would only say if we find offsets in the future to make the extension, we can do that. It is as if I give you $15, and if you find $15 for me some day, you can pay me," Coleman said. "This doesn't move the ball forward. We are still at ground zero. If you believe in renewables and clean energy, I urge you to vote against this and support my amendment."

The amendment was approved 52-42, with Democrats unanimous in supporting Conrad. Five Republicans also sided with Democrats in approving the amendment. Coleman's competing amendment was later defeated. Thus, the budget resolution went forward with a reserve fund dedicated to renewable energy and energy efficiency tax incentives.

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