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October 1, 2014

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Reid, Ensign focusing on numbers that bolster their arguments

Nevada’s two senators are in the closest thing to a math fight they’ve had for a while, albeit somewhat indirectly, as each throws out his best numbers for and against the tax bill.

First, Reid: 2,500!

That’s the number of jobs he says could be created by the extension of one provision, the Section 1603 Treasury Grant program, which allows renewable energy project sponsors to convert a relevant tax credit into hard cash. The program, created under the stimulus, is essentially a jobs-enabler in the wind, solar, and geothermal fields, and Reid’s office identified 14 Nevada projects that would be eligible for it under a one-year extension.

“The 1603 Treasury Grant Program has been crucial in helping accelerate renewable energy industry activities in the US, especially in light of the financial downturn and lack of tax equity investors,” said Kevin Smith, CEO of SolarReserve, LLC, a California-based firm that sponsors projects in Nevada.

Reid insisted on the inclusion of the program into the tax bill, which was not present in the original framework released by the Obama administration at the beginning of last week.

Now it’s Sen. John Ensign’s turn: 900 billion!

That’s the cost of the framework package, and thus the amount that should be offset but isn’t, Ensign says; which is why he’s probably going to vote against final passage of the bill.

Ensign had been a staunch supporter of extending tax cuts for all Americans, but concerns about the deficit rank higher, he said last week.

“While I don’t believe that anyone should have their taxes raised...we should have at least worked on putting a package of spending cuts together to offset this bill,” he said.

In the time since, he’s said he’s a pretty likely “no” vote on taxes. Monday night, he was one of only five Republicans to vote against a motion to take up the bill.

As is not terribly surprising in math fights, the senators haven’t really answered each others’ concerns.

Ensign’s been rather passive about the Section 1603 program extension, and when it comes to renewables, he’s clearly put his weight more squarely behind an industry that he says doesn’t need 1603 credits to prosper.

“Geothermal pays for itself,” Ensign said last week. He is also presently pushing appropriators to mimic the House and include a provision in the budget package that allows counties to receive a share of geothermal royalties from projects situated on federal land.

Reid, on the other hand, hasn’t spoken on the $900 billion question — and as he’s had to play leader on the tax bill, he’s stepped off the soapbox decrying the $700 billion extra over ten years that the tax cut to the wealthy was going to add to the deficit too.

Instead, he’s focusing on individual middle class families this week, and how the bill will ease payroll taxes by $120 billion, as well as resuscitate lapsed unemployment insurance payments for 13 months.

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