After all the drama in this end-of-year self-generated fiscal crisis, Congressional negotiators struck a deal on the omnibus spending and tax extender bills. In a nutshell – the democrats won, the republicans caved and the rest of us were screwed – unless, of course, you’re in big wind’s camp. In that case, you’re probably stunned at how much Congress is willing to give of taxpayer money so it can go home for the holidays.
After two weeks of bluster from both sides claiming the renewable tax credits posed the greatest obstacle to reaching agreement, we now know there was no debate at all. The wind industry secured its prized 2-year, $10 billion extension promised by the Senate Finance Committee with no questions asked. To appease the thousands of taxpayers who pleaded for the wind PTC to end, the backroom, spineless negotiators added phase-out language that would lower the credit in annual 20% increments after 2016.
The phase-out might sound reasonable but it’s meaningless and no different had the House agreed to the 2-year extension with no phase out. This time next year, big wind’s army of lobbyists will descend on Congress once again with a slightly modified ask i.e. to delay the phase-out reduction for a year, and another and another after that. We’ve all seen the movie before and the ending never changes. If the bill passes as written, the now 23-year old subsidy would be, in essence, a permanent subsidy.
Speaker Ryan called the deal a compromise born out of divided government. He’s asked his party to support the bill and let Congress close out 2015 with the promise that Republicans would do better in 2016. Those are nice words, but embarrassingly self-centered. The voters are done waiting for Congress to do better. We expect Ryan and the other members to do their job, understand the consequences of their actions and stay in Washington until they come up with something better. If that’s not possible then don’t bother coming home to their districts.
At the very least, there is still one more action that the Republican leadership can do that might quell the masses. Paul Ryan should work with the House rules committee to mandate a standalone vote on the House floor for the renewable credits portions of the bills. If our representatives are willing to ram big wind’s costs down our throats, the voters deserve to know the names of every congressperson supporting this subsidy-fest.