SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

December 9, 2014

House – Corp aid, cut rest

This is a mixture/post of two separate stories of our do-nothing Congress who only defile, belittle and threaten, have no sense of proportion or responsibility for the limited time they are in Washington pretending to work.  Now anxious to get out of town, they are rushing through as much as they can.  The first item is the biggie, taking care of corporate wants which if allowed would pile up our national debt after it had been destroyed under a Republican White House and Obama set about to bring it back down.  So ugly, but you can read about it below.  

The second item is typical of ongoing stories of the cut/slash/and burn issues which they have no patience for —  giving schools a one year waiver on rules for school meals.  It is just too darned expensive and relief is needed.  Go for it guys, that’s how one builds a great society!          Jan

House OKs extension of expired tax breaks

By Stephen Ohlemacher ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON — The House rushed through a last-minute measure yesterday to extend a massive package of expired tax breaks for banks, investment firms, commuters and NASCAR track owners.    The bill would enable millions of businesses and individuals to claim the tax breaks on their 2014 returns. It would add nearly $42 billion to the budget deficit during the next decade.

The more than 50 tax breaks benefit big corporations and small businesses, as well as teachers and people who live in states without a state income tax. Narrower provisions include tax breaks for filmmakers, racehorse owners and rum producers in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

“With the end of the year and a new tax-filing season rapidly approaching, we need to act,” said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. “The IRS has been clear that unless Congress acts quickly, it will be forced to delay the start of the tax-filing season.”

The bill passed 378-46. It now goes to the Senate, where Democratic leaders have been noncommittal about whether they would accept it or try to change it. Time is short because the House plans to adjourn for the year next week, and the Senate could as well.
Congress routinely extends the package of tax breaks every year or two. But they were allowed to expire in January.  Technically, the bill is a one-year, retroactive extension of the tax breaks, even though it only lasts through the end of the month.
Lawmakers from both political parties said the short-term measure is the product of a divided Congress that has trouble passing routine legislation.

“This on-again, off-again style of legislating on a temporary basis is a terrible way to make tax policy,” Camp said.
House Republicans and Senate Democrats were negotiating to make some of the tax breaks permanent. But talks faltered last week after the White House threatened to veto an emerging package, saying it too heavily favored big corporations over families.

Some Democrats said they opposed the package, which the White House threatened to veto because it would have added more than $400 billion to the budget deficit in the next decade, yet still would have allowed several tax breaks that benefit low-income families to expire in a few years.

Among the biggest breaks for businesses are a tax credit for research and development, an exemption that allows financial companies such as banks and investment firms to shield foreign profits from being taxed by the United States and several provisions that allow businesses to write off capital investments more quickly.

There is also a generous tax credit for using wind farms and other renewable-energy sources to produce electricity.

The biggest tax break for individuals allows people who live in states without an income tax to deduct state and local sales taxes on their federal returns. Another protects struggling homeowners who get their mortgages reduced from paying income taxes on the amount of debt that was forgiven.

Other provisions benefit commuters who use public transportation and teachers who spend their own money on classroom supplies.
Some Democrats are unhappy the package leaves out two provisions: a tax credit that helps some laid-off workers pay for health insurance, and a tax credit for buying electric motorcycles.

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Nutrition

GOP seeks 1-year waiver on rules for school meals

By Mary Clare Jalonick ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON — House Republicans are making a final push this month to give schools a temporary break from healthier school-meal standards.    The school-meal rules, phased in since 2012 and championed by first lady Michelle Obama, require more fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the lunch line. The standards also limit sodium, sugar and fat.

  • Some school-nutrition directors have lobbied for a break, saying the rules have proved to be costly and restrictive.

House Republicans have said the rules are an overreach, and they have pushed a one-year waiver that would allow schools to opt out of the standards for the next school year if they lost money on meal programs over six months.

The waiver language stalled this summer after the first lady lobbied aggressively against it and the White House issued a veto threat. The food and farm spending bill that contained the provision was pulled from the House floor, a move that House Republicans attributed to scheduling issues.

But the waiver has new life this month as lawmakers are expected to pass a catchall spending bill to keep government programs running.

Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees school-meal spending, has been pushing to include the waiver in the wide-ranging bill.

Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., both said on Thursday that the House and the Senate are negotiating over the waiver.    A Senate bill approved by a spending committee in May did not include the waiver but called for further study on sodium and whole-grains requirements.

Yesterday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., listed “lowering standards for school lunches for our children” as one of a few “very destructive riders” that would be unacceptable to Democrats in the spending bill.

White House nutrition-policy adviser Sam Kass said the White House is “deeply engaged” on the school-meals policy, which has become one of the first lady’s signature issues. He said the policy is a priority for the administration.

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