What: All Issues : Justice for All: Civil and Criminal : Assisting Crime Impacted Communities : S Con Res 21. (Fiscal 2008 budget resolution), Coleman of Minnesota amendment on extending renewable energy and energy efficiency tax incentives/On agreeing to the amendment
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S Con Res 21. (Fiscal 2008 budget resolution), Coleman of Minnesota amendment on extending renewable energy and energy efficiency tax incentives/On agreeing to the amendment
senate Roll Call 98     Mar 22, 2007
Y = Conservative
N = Progressive
Winning Side:
Progressive

This vote was on an amendment by Norm Coleman, R-Minn., that 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.

"High energy prices threaten our economic security. It is imperative then that Congress work to promote energy technology that will offer clean energy solutions and, if anything, Congress's budget should provide for new opportunities to address these issues. Yet in addition to seeking new legislative opportunities, we must address the oncoming expiration of current energy tax incentives that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency. At the end of 2008, tax incentives for wind, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, and other clean energy technologies will expire, as well as tax provisions for energy-efficient residential and commercial buildings," Coleman said.

Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said he supported Coleman's goals but was concerned with its funding method. Conrad said Coleman's amendment would depend on money from a fund (known as a "920 fund") that is all but depleted. Conrad earlier offered his own amendment as a counterweight, that would establish a reserve fund for renewable energy and energy efficiency tax incentives.

Both amendments were 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.

"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. Conrad then offered his own amendment that would create a reserve fund for renewable energy and energy efficiency tax incentives.

Coleman countered that the reserve fund Conrad's amendment would create doesn't actually guarantee any funding will be available for the renewable energy programs, only that if funding is found in the future that additional money 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."

Democrats were united in defeating the amendment 42-53. Four Republicans joined Democrats in voting the amendment down. Earlier, the Senate approved Conrad's amendment instead. Thus, the bill went forward without renewable energy and energy efficiency tax incentives and bonding authority paid for through a "920 fund."

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