By Christine Harbin Hanson
House Speaker Boehner recently commented about his colleagues on Capitol Hill: “We get elected to make choices. We get elected to solve problems and it’s remarkable to me how many of my colleagues just don’t want to.” Setting aside the fact that Speaker Boehner was talking about a policy issue that AFP does not work on, and overlooking the widespread criticism he’s received from some quarters, the question raised by his comments is a fair one.
Americans routinely hear politicians make promises on the campaign trail, only to watch those same politicians fail to put their words into action once they get into office. The problem is endemic, and affects politicians of all ideological stripes. Simply put, many elected officials seem to develop an allergy to making the difficult decisions they are so fond of talking about on the campaign trail. Politicians say, for example, that they are going to clean up the tax code and say no to special interests, but then they end up rubber-stamping the same corporate welfare policies that clutter federal spending. They promise to reform runaway entitlement spending, but do little to slow the rapid expansion of the welfare state.
One rare exception to this rule may be House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp of Michigan. His committee will consider legislation extending expired tax provisions beginning this Tuesday. Many of the proposals that the committee will consider would extend and make permanent certain business-related tax provisions that expired at the end of this past year.
Americans for Prosperity has paid close attention to the tax extender legislation as it moves through Congress, pointing out giveaways to special interests and the problems they pose. We’ve focused on efforts to extend expired wind subsidies because they are a bellwether for comprehensive tax reform. If lawmakers are not willing to stand up end the handouts for this one special interest, then how will they be willing to end handouts for any others?
Earlier this month, AFP sent a letter to members of the Senate Finance Committee, and a similar letter to House Ways and Means Chairman Camp, urging members to oppose extending expired wind subsidies as they consider tax extenders legislation. We also highlighted our position in a piece in The Hill and joined a coalition of organizations in sending a letter to Capitol Hill.
AFP is encouraged to see that Chairman Camp did not include a sweetheart subsidy for wind producers – often referred to as the Wind Production Tax Credit, or PTC in the tax reform discussion drafts that he released earlier this year. We hope he will continue his leadership in standing up to special interests in the green energy lobby.
We are further encouraged by Chairman Camp’s indication that he will consider these “tax extenders” in separate legislation over the course of the summer. This will allow a more open and more transparent process than what we recently saw on the other side of Capitol Hill, when the Senate Finance Committee fast-tracked its version of the extenders package in a single hearing. The Senate package extended a number of expired tax incentives that benefit special interests at the expense of American taxpayers. For instance, it expended the PTC — the main handout for the wind energy industry, which rightfully expired at the end of this past year.
The first step to fixing Washington’s finances is standing up to special interests like Big Wind and getting rid of the carve outs that clutter the tax code. Now is the time to broaden the tax base and lower overall tax rates, so that all parties can benefit from a lower tax burden, not just the government’s favorite few. Chairman Camp’s colleagues on Capitol Hill should follow his example.