Smith Votes to Extend Tax Relief, Bolster Renewable Energy

September 23rd, 2008 - Washington, D.C. - Today, Senator Gordon Smith voted to pass urgent legislation that will extend tax credits and relief to American families and small businesses. The bill contained several provisions Smith has fought for including, national mental health parity, an extension of renewable energy and small business tax credits, family and education relief, tax credits to improve rail safety and tribal tax credits to promote economic development on tribal lands.


“The last thing we need in ailing economy is to raise taxes,” said Smith. “This bill will ensure Americans’ taxes are low, while providing small businesses tax relief to help our economy rebound. This legislation will also strengthen existing renewable energy tax credits, as well as provide new incentives to move our nation towards to a greener, cleaner future.”   


The bill will now be sent to the House for consideration as early as tomorrow.


The Tax Extenders bill contains the following provisions Smith fought to include:


Renewable Energy


• Extends the production tax credit for electricity generated from renewable sources including wind, solar, biomass geothermal, small irrigation, qualified hydropower, landfill gas and trash combustion facilities.  For the first time wave and tidal facilities will also qualify. Provides for the long-term extension and modification of solar energy and fuel cell investment tax credit.


• Provides a new investment tax credit for small wind facilities that provide energy directly to homes, farms and businesses.   Extends the credit for wind through the end of 2009, and for other renewable energy through the end of 2010.


• Authorizes $800 million for continuation of the clean renewable energy bonds program to enable local units of government and consumer-owned utilities to finance qualifying renewable electricity projects. Also continues important tax incentives for energy efficient buildings and appliances.


• Establishes a new credit for plug-in electric drive vehicles, ranging from $2,500 to $7,500.  The bill also provides tax incentives for alternative refueling stations and several types of renewable fuels, including cellulosic biofuels.


Family and Education Tax Relief


• Improves the child tax credit by lowering the refundability threshold to $8,500 for the 2008 tax year.  The current threshold is $12,050.  This modification will allow an additional 34,848 Oregon families to qualify for the tax credit. 


• Extends the qualified tuition deduction to the end of 2009.  This above-the-line tax deduction for qualified higher education expenses has been utilized by an estimated 65,000 Oregon families.


• Extends the teacher expense deduction through the end of 2009, which allows teachers an above-the-line deduction for up to $250 for educational expenses. An estimated 33,589 Oregon teachers have benefited from this credit. 


Mental Health Parity


• Requires private insurance plans that offer mental health benefits as part of their coverage to offer such benefits on par with medical-surgical benefits.  Sen. Smith has been a lead advocate for passage of this legislation in the Senate.  This will build upon other Mental Health parity efforts that Sen. Smith has championed including parity in the copay for mental health services in the Medicare program and mental health parity for children in the SCHIP program.   


Small Business Growth


• Extends the expired research and development tax credit to the end of 2009 and increases the alternative simplified credit from 12 percent to 14 percent for the 2009 tax year.  This tax credit will benefit the more than 1,000 Oregon firms that are involved in R&D, many of which are medium and small sized companies.


Rail Safety Improvement


• Extends the railroad maintenance credit that expired on December 31, 2007 to the end of 2009.  This credit provides short-line railroads with a tax credit equal to 50 percent of gross expenditures for maintaining railroad tracks that they own or lease.  Over half of Oregon’s total rail network is operated by short-line railroads, which carry aggregates, grain and timber to local markets.  This tax credit fosters investment in short-line railroads that have made Oregon’s railroads safer and more efficient.


Tribal Tax Relief


• Provides a business tax credit to employers of qualified workers who live and work on or near an Indian reservation.  The credit is for wages and health insurance costs paid to qualified employees (up to $20,000) in the current year over the amount paid in 1993.  The proposal would extend the Indian employment credit to the end of 2009 As a result of this tax credit, $45,970 was claimed in 2005 by employers with principal offices in Oregon. 


• Extends the placed-in-service date for the special depreciation recovery period for qualified Indian reservation property until the end of 2009.  To qualify, property must be used predominantly in the active conduct of a trade or business within an Indian reservation, and not be used regularly outside the reservation or acquired from a related person.