December 13, 2006

CRAPO HIGHLIGHTS KEY PROVISIONS OF BROAD END-OF-THE-YEAR LEGISLATION

by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

Effective legislation can sometimes travel a difficult road to passage. Tax policy extensions, health initiatives and trade negotiations languished throughout the year, held up by partisan debate and unpalatable amendments. In the final days of the 109th Congress, the House and Senate passed a bill encompassing many of these outstanding issues. The final bill (H.R. 6111), soon to be signed into law, extends important tax relief measures, ensures access to vital medical services, expands trade opportunities and bolsters energy and environmental policy initiativesâ??all provisions that benefit Idahoans. With tax season just around the corner, the legislation renews critical tax policy, such as the college tuition deduction, research and development tax credit and teacher classroom expensing. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I have consistently worked to pass legislation to extend many of these tax relief measures. The pro-growth formula of reducing taxes works â?? our economy has grown to unprecedented levels in recent months. Americaâ??s continued global competitiveness is ensured by providing incentives to encourage research and development and education and by keeping the federal government out of the pockets of hard-working American families. Other tax relief measures in the bill include: â?¢Accelerated depreciation for business property on Indian reservations, benefiting many Idaho companies; â?¢Modification of shortline railroad track maintenance credit, clarifying language that supports Idahoâ??s shortline railroad and helps create jobs in Idaho.Nearly 200,000 Idahoans benefit from Medicare services. Under this legislation, these Idahoans will see access to quality healthcare preserved because of the elimination of a five percent scheduled reduction in Medicareâ??s payments to doctors. Moreover, I am pleased to have secured a provision that identifies improper and excessive Medicare payments. This program has already saved hundreds of millions of dollars in three states, and with this billâ??s passage, its provisions will be extended nationwide, saving taxpayers money throughout the U.S.This bill also gives our nationâ??s farmers better access to the emerging Vietnamese market by granting Vietnam Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR). With a population of more than 80 million people, Vietnam offers expanded opportunities for U.S. producers. Extending PNTR to Vietnam is also one of many important steps to normalize relations and enhance understanding with Vietnam. To increase Americaâ??s energy independence, we must develop clean alternative energy sources while seeking ways to increase domestic production. This legislation extends tax incentives for qualified renewable resources including wind, biomass, geothermal, hydropower and small irrigation power facilities. The bill also opens more than 8.3 million acres on the outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas leasing to provide for U.S. energy security. Other key energy tax provisions include: â?¢Extension and expansion of expensing of brownfields remediation costs; â?¢Credit to holders of clean renewable energy bonds;â?¢Deductions for energy efficient commercial buildings, property and homes; â?¢Special depreciation allowance for cellulosic biomass ethanol plant property; â?¢Expanding permissible uses of monies from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUSTs) Trust Fund for clean-up and prevention of associated contamination. The legislation provides a solid launching pad for what must be accomplished in the 110th Congress. Americans know best how to allocate their hard-earned money where they see fit, rather than having the federal government make these choices for them. Tax relief must be made permanent, and federal spending must be limited. As we move into the 110th Congress, I hope that we can engage in productive debate and leave divisive, partisan politics behind us. With the support and feedback from the people of Idaho and with my colleagues in Congress, I look forward to working together to establish good policy for the benefit of the American people. WORD COUNT: 609