Support for Omnibus and Tax Extenders Legislationby Representative Earl Blumenauer
Posted on 2015-12-18
in the house of representatives
Friday, December 18, 2015
Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, I voted for both the omnibus and tax
extender bills that came before the House this week. They represented
hard work and compromises by many on both sides of the aisle and across
the advocacy community. I commend so many of my colleagues for
reminding us of what we can accomplish when we work together on behalf
of the American people.
These bills don't just do the bare minimum to keep the government open and continue the policy status quo as we have done many times in recent years. Instead, they actually invest in important programs, many that I have supported for years and that are priorities for Oregonians.
I am pleased to see the extenders legislation support research and development, and provide important tools--such as an extension of the New Markets program--to invest in our communities. The tax package increases the benefit for transit riders to the same level as the parking tax benefit, providing much-needed tax fairness, strengthening options for commuters, and eliminating an incentive to drive to work. This provision will ease congestion and road wear and make our transportation system more sustainable.
The omnibus also contains robust funding for public broadcasting, animal welfare enforcement, and health and scientific research. It includes the highest-ever levels of funding for the implementation of the Water for the Poor and Water for the World Acts, for which I have fought for years. I am pleased that the bill contains many provisions that I helped champion, including language to ensure the Department of Justice stay out of the way of state medical marijuana laws, language that supports industrial hemp research programs, and increased funding for brain research.
There are also many positive provisions for the environment in these bills. I am delighted that the Land and Water Conservation Fund has been reauthorized and funded at a significant increase of $144 million. This program is one of the most important tools we have to protect land and habitat, construct parks and purchase other outdoor spaces that are cherished in communities.
Both bills take important steps to help us transition away from fossil fuels and allow us to meaningfully contribute in the global fight against climate change. In particular, the long-term extension of tax credits for wind and solar energy development will significantly expand the development of clean renewable energy across the country at a critical time in our struggle to reduce carbon emissions. With this support, the solar industry estimates that by 2020, it will deploy more than 20 GW of solar electricity annually.
The provisions supporting wind energy will free that industry from a repeated boom-and-bust cycle caused by inaction in Congress, and will strengthen the build out of low-cost, emission-free renewable energy from coast to coast.
The elimination of many of the damaging environmental riders that were proposed during the appropriations process was a major victory, measures that would have defunded the Clean Power Plan, or reduced protections for endangered species among many others.
There are certainly provisions in both of these bills that I do not support. It is troubling that we are drifting away from discipline in terms of dealing with the deficit. There were many missed opportunities to reduce wasteful spending and redirect those resources to where it is more needed. We will continue to spend billions of dollars every year on a nuclear arsenal we can't afford and will not use. Through tax breaks and direct subsidies, we will also continue to directly support wildly profitable industries that do not need this support--such as agribusiness and the petroleum industry.
The bills also fail to address the need for new and different revenues, such as a carbon tax and a gas tax increase to rebuild crumbling infrastructure, to protect our environment and to properly invest in social safety net programs over the long run.
Both bills include provisions that on their own, I would not support. I remain unpersuaded that we need to lift the crude oil export ban. I have voted against such legislation in the past since it will not help us transition to a cleaner energy future. The inclusion of the Cybersecurity Information and Sharing Act is troubling because it fails to strike the right balance between privacy and security, or between the responsibility of the private sector and the government. The omnibus also continues an irresponsible policy rider that interferes with the District of Columbia's ability to manage the sale of marijuana to ensure safety and appropriate regulations. Finally, the extenders legislation imposes new rules and responsibilities on the overburdened staff at the Internal Revenue Service. We currently have the most efficient tax collection system in the world among developed nations, but we have been systematically destroying its ability to serve taxpayers by doing its job.
[[Page E1843]] I also am disappointed that the omnibus did not include a number of key spending priorities that should command support from everyone. The bill does not include an important change to wildfire spending. We should treat wildfires like other major disasters and eliminate the practice of ``fire borrowing,'' which drains agency non-fire budgets to pay for firefighting. The bill also fails to reauthorize the Historic Preservation Fund, the main source of federal support for preservation projects that celebrate the heritage and history of communities across America. Finally, the omnibus continues a decades long ban on federal research on the causes and factors behind gun violence. Everyone should allow researchers to study and share information about gun violence in order to promote evidence-based policies to reduce horrific incidents.
Despite these shortcomings, however, I support the overall package. On the whole, it's balanced and includes meaningful provisions that will support priorities important to Oregonians and across the country. I'm hopeful this is an indication that going forward, Congress can work across the aisle and compromise, so that we can do our jobs for the American people.