Bill Funds Government through September, Extends Crucial Tax Provisions
Washington, DC - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today helped pass a year-end bill to fund the government and extend tax provisions crucial to Colorado's economy. The bill includes numerous Colorado priorities Bennet helped secure in the bill.
"Our office fought to include many important priorities for Colorado that will help families and businesses across the state and boost our economy, but Washington must get out of the bad habit of last minute bills and manufactured crises," Bennet said. "This is no way to govern. Congress must stop allowing politics to block progress for our country."
Bennet secured funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, PILT, crucial infrastructure projects like Eagle P3 and the Southeast Rail extension, and Colorado's schools, among other priorities for Colorado. The bill also includes extensions of important tax provisions like the wind PTC and solar ITC for our diverse energy industry, the teacher tax deduction, and the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit for Colorado's hardworking families.
Colorado Priorities Included in the Bill:
• Eagle P3 Project: The bill includes $150 million for the light rail project from Union Station to Denver International Airport. This is the full amount requested per RTD's Full Funding Grant Agreement.
• Southeast Rail Extension: The bill has full funding at $92 million for the light rail project from I-25/Broadway to Lone Tree.
• Wind Production Tax Credit ("PTC"): Bennet helped secure a five-year extension of the wind PTC. Earlier this year, Bennet secured a two-year extension of the PTC in a bill considered by the Senate Finance Committee. The bill passed today slowly phases down the credit over those five years.
• Solar Investment Tax Credit ("ITC"): Bennet also helped secure a five-year extension of the solar ITC, which will now be granted when projects "commence construction." The "commence construction" language is based on a bipartisan bill Bennet introduced with Senator Dean Heller (R-NV). Any project that starts construction before January 1, 2022 and is completed before January 1, 2024 will receive the credit. The five-year extension begins after the credit expires at the end of 2016 and phases down the credit.
• Educator Deduction: The bill permanently extends the $250 teacher tax deduction. It also includes Bennet's improvements to index the deduction to inflation and to cover professional development expenses.
• Child Tax Credit ("CTC") and Earned Income Tax Credit ("EITC"): The bill makes permanent the 2009 improvements to the child tax credit, making it more refundable. It also makes permanent the 2009 improvements to the EITC, which provide additional support for larger families. Without these extensions, 264,000 Coloradans-including 129,000 children-would have been pushed into poverty or deeper into poverty. Bennet introduced a bill earlier this year to index the credit to inflation, increase the value of the credit for families with young children, and allow families to receive a larger refund from the credit on their tax returns. Bennet has also cosponsored a bill to improve the EITC for workers without children.
• Visa Waiver Program: The bill includes several provisions from the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) bill Bennet introduced with Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ). The bill requires all travelers using the VWP to have an electronic passport, which are more secure and harder to tamper with, and works to prevent foreign fighters from using the program by requiring individuals who have traveled to Iraq, Syria, and other high-risk countries in the last five years to acquire a traditional visa. The traditional visa process includes an in-person interview with an American consular official and the submission of biometric information like photographs and fingerprints. The bill also requires improved information sharing between VWP countries and the United States.
• Federal Workforce Assessment Act: The bill includes language based on the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) approved by the Senate in October. Included in that bill is a bipartisan provision authored by Bennet with Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio to strengthen the cybersecurity workforce at federal agencies.
• Suicide Rates: The bill includes a modified version of an amendment Bennet previously passed that will require the VA to consult with the Department of Defense to conduct a study on the effect of combat service on suicide rates and other mental health issues among veterans. It also directs the VA to compare the rate and method of suicides among those veterans who have sought and received VA care and those who have not.
• Major Construction Projects: The bill requires the VA to certify that an agreement is in place with a non-VA entity, like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, before major construction projects over $100 million can proceed. Bennet passed an amendment with Senator Cory Gardner to the National Defense Authorization Act earlier this year to give the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers authority to manage major construction projects for the VA following the agency's mismanagement of the replacement VA medical center being constructed in Aurora.
• EB-5 Visa: The bill includes a10-month extension on the investor visa program, which is an important priority for the National Western Stockshow redevelopment project.
• Orion Space Capsule: The bill contains $1.27 billion for the Colorado-based project that is building a space capsule to bring humans to Mars.
• Space Launch Systems: It includes $2 billion for the NASA vehicle that will launch the Orion capsule into space. 120 Colorado companies are involved in the project.
• Title I and IDEA Funding: The bill provides an overall increase in Title I funding of $500 million and an overall increase in IDEA funding of $415 million.
• Pell Grants: The maximum Pell grant will increase from $5,775 to $5,915.
• Child Care & Head Start: The bill includes a $326 million increase in child care funding and a $570 million increase in Head Start funding.
• Charter schools: The bill increases charter school funding by $80 million. The program is now funded at $333 million.
• i3 (Education Innovation Funding): The bill provides $120 million for i3 innovation funding. Bennet led efforts advocating for additional funding for the i3 program and worked to include a similar program in the recently-passed ESEA reauthorization.
LANDS AND AGRICULTURE
• Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF): It contains a three-year reauthorization through September 30, 2018 for the LWCF. The bill funds LWCF for FY2016 at $450 million. Bennet has authored multiple bipartisan bills to permanently reauthorize and fully fund LWCF.
• Payment-in-Lieu-of-Taxes (PILT): The bill contains full funding for FY2016: $452 million. Since coming to the Senate, Bennet has worked to ensure Colorado counties are fully reimbursed by PILT.
• Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP): The bill contains $157 million for the Emergency Watershed Protection program. Following natural disasters like wildfires and floods in Colorado, Bennet has worked with the Colorado delegation to secure EWP funding.
• National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL): The bill contains $62 million for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory located in Golden.
• Conservation Easements: The bill permanently extends the increased contribution limits and carry-forward period for contributions of real property for conservation purposes.
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