ENERGY INDEPENDENCE AND SECURITY ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - December 06, 2007)
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Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about one particular provision in this bill which really puzzles me, and that is the tax earmark that's in this bill. This bill creates forestry conservation tax credit bonds. Sounds pretty innocent on its face. But reading through the language, the provision has little to do with forestry, and didn't appear to require the protection of a single tree. Rather, it's nominally about protecting fish.
Specifically, to qualify for the tax credit bond program, the parcel of land to be purchased must be adjacent to the Forest Service land; have a portion of that land turned over to the U.S. Forest Service; include at least 40,000 total acres, and must be subject to a ``native fish habitat conservation plan approved by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.''
Well, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service, there is only one piece of land in America that meets this description. It's a piece of land in Montana owned by a timber giant, Plum Creek. And according to press reports, they intend to sell it to the Nature Conservancy, which can get the $500 million in bonds, who could give that $500 million, buy it from Plum Creek, turn around and sell it to landowners, for all we know. If this isn't a tax earmark, I don't know what is.
But the point is, this is a tax earmark. And why is it possible to add this provision which is a tax earmark?
Well, the anti-earmark rules that we have here in the House only apply to conference reports and bills.
What are we considering today? Technically, it's an amendment to the Senate bill which was an amendment to the original House-passed bill. So the earmark rules we have are thrown out the window. No earmark rules apply here. That's how you can sneak this provision in, a $500 million tax earmark provision to go to one private landowner.
Again, we can't be exactly sure what the deal here is because the bill just got released. We don't know who asked for this provision or exactly how it will be used, but at the very least, serious questions ought to be raised about such an expensive provision dropped into this bill to benefit one particular landowner.
In addition to that, this bill may not technically violate PAYGO, but it sure does violate the spirit of PAYGO. It uses timing shifts and other budget gimmicks to violate PAYGO. For this and many other reasons, I urge a ``no'' vote on this bill.
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