Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) – the chamber’s third-ranking Republican – is pushing to wipe out a range of tax subsidies for various energy industries.
But the senior Republican is cool to Democratic calls for making removal of subsidies, especially for the oil industry, part of a deficit-cutting deal the White House is negotiating with a small bipartisan group of lawmakers.
“At a time when we are borrowing 40 cents out of every dollar that we spend, it is a good time to take a hard look at unwarranted tax breaks and one appropriate use of those funds is to reduce the deficit,” Alexander said in the Capitol Thursday. He said is preparing legislation on the issue.
“I am opposed to permanent subsidies for energy as a general matter. I am in favor of jumpstarting new technologies such as electric cars, helping the next few nuclear plants get off the ground, but I am opposed to, for example, a permanent ethanol subsidy and a permanent subsidy for wind mills,” Alexander said.
“I think we ought to look at all energy across the board, not just big oil, but big wind, big everything else and get a rational policy,” he said.
Alexander’s comments come as Democrats are pressing Vice President Joe Biden to ensure that any deficit deal reached as part of an agreement to raise the debt ceiling should repeal billions of dollars in oil industry tax breaks.
But Alexander was cool to the idea that energy tax subsidies should be addressed through the Biden-led talks, which he is not a participant in.
“I don’t think the vice president is engaged in a tax reform exercise. I think this is a separate exercise, but during a time when we are looking at the deficit and looking for different ways to deal with it, unwarranted tax breaks ought to be part of the discussion,” Alexander said.
“The Biden discussion is not about tax reform, and this is tax reform,” he added. Alexander said money saved from nixing energy tax subsidies should be used in multiple ways.
“We ought to take the money we are now spending for permanent subsidies and one appropriate use would be to fund energy research, but given the size of the deficit we ought to use the rest of the money to either reduce the debt or to lower marginal tax rates,” he said.
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