Louisiana Landrieu: Senate Passes Tax Bill, Full GO Zone Next Year
Written by  // Wednesday, 15 December 2010 14:13 //

The United States Senate passed the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Authorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 but for now, it fails to include the needed extension for GO Zone Low-Income Housing Tax credit that Louisiana U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu had requested.

Instead, the legislation passed the Senate with a one year extension and not a two year extension. However, Landrieu released a press release statement that outlines that she secured a bipartisan commitment for the additional year to extend the extension at the first available time.  Louisiana Senator David Vitter also spoke in favor of the extension.


Here is the Landrieu press statement: 

United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., today secured a bipartisan commitment from Senate leaders to extend the GO Zone Low-Income Housing Tax Credit placed-in-service date from December 31, 2010 through 2012 in the coming Congress.  The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Authorization and Job Creation Act of 2010, which passed the Senate today, only extended the placed-in-service date through 2011.  Without a two-year extension through 2012, nearly 5,000 Gulf Coast units would be unlikely to be completed and an estimated $1 billion of construction projects and related jobs would be in jeopardy.

Sen. Landrieu was successful in receiving a commitment on the Senate floor from Senate Finance Committee Chairman, Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., the chief Republican negotiator of the tax deal, to include a two-year extension in new tax legislation at the earliest possible time in the 112th Congress.

“Six years ago more than 250,000 homes were destroyed in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the great flood that ensued,” Sen.. Landrieu said.  “It has only been six years since that happened and we are still trying to re-build these homes.  These Go Zone tax credits were created with the help of nearly the entire Senate.  One important part of that package is the low-income tax credit to replace the thousands of low-income units for seniors, the disabled and the working poor that were lost in the storms.  When this tax deal was put together, the deadline for these projects to be placed in service was only extended for one year, instead of two.  Without extending that date for two years, these low-income projects along the Gulf Coast will come to a screeching halt.

“We fought to the last minute to make this fix in the Senate and we still have hope to get it fixed in the House, but I did receive a strong commitment from Chairman Baucus and Senator Kyl to get this date extended very early in 2011.  This extension is critical to the people of the Gulf Coast, to our cities and to all the businesses that are depending on a full economic recovery from the storms of 2005.”

“In order to continue LHFA's work rebuilding Louisiana, the technical change of extending the Placed in Service deadline to January 1, 2013 is essential,” said Allison Jones, Board Chair of the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency.  “A one year extension is meaningless. A two year extension is desperately necessary.  We are deeply appreciative of Senator Landrieu's leadership on this issue and thankful that she has received the support of her fellow Senators.  We trust that Congress will listen to Louisiana's leaders and keep our nation's promise to rebuild our state by addressing this immediately in 2011.”

A two-year extension, which has been endorsed by Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Shaun Donovan, the New Orleans Times-Picayune and the New York Times, passed the Senate in March of this year as part of the Tax Extenders bill. 

To see video of Sen. Landrieu securing this agreement on the Senate floor, please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTUsdBUNCIw

Below is a transcript of the discussion Sen. Landrieu had on the Senate floor with Sen. Baucus, Sen. Kyl and Sen. David Vitter, R-La.:

Landrieu:“Thank you, Mr. President. I'm going to take two of my seven minutes now and reserve the balance of my time because we only have under the agreement arrived at between Leader Reid and Leader McConnell. We only have 15 minutes to correct this mistake because at 12:00 we're going to have to vote on several issues. This is not one of them because this is not an amendment. This is a mistake. And I've only got 15 minutes to correct it. So I’m going to try to explain again how important this is.. There are $890 billion worth of amendments and projects in the bill that we're about to vote on. Within that $180 billion, there's a package of $800 million in GO Zones. That package was put together by me and my colleagues from the Gulf Coast. We fashioned it. We designed it. We created it. We're proud of it. And so it was supposed to be part of this much larger package, and lo and behold, all of it got its way in except for $42 billion for low-income housing. That’s it. That was the only thing left out of the GO Zone. So, Senator Vitter and myself, Senator Shelby, Senator Sessions, Senator Wicker and Senator Cochran have cosponsored a one-line provision. This isn't really an amendment to the bill. It’s a provision to fix a mistake that's been acknowledged by the Finance Chair and actually acknowledged by the Republican negotiators. They meant to include it, but they just didn't, because in order to include it, the low-income housing tax credits to build these units has to go to 2012, everything else in the bill is to 2011, but they knew that if they didn’t extend it to 12 that we can’t build these projects. These projects and their financing will be in jeopardy. There are 77 projects across the Gulf Coast for seniors, for the disabled, for the working poor and these projects are transforming the city of New Orleans, the Gulf Coast, Waveland, in Biloxi. Not just for the people who live in them, but the neighborhoods surrounding them, they are imperative.  Tim Geithner supports this, the President supports it, Secretary Donovan supports it. I'm going reserve to my time in hopes that before 12:00 we can get this fixed.

The Presiding Officer:who yields time?

Ms. Landrieu:Mr. President?

The Presiding Officer:the Senator from Louisiana.

Ms. Landrieu:how much time do I have remaining?

The Presiding Officer:the Senator has three minutes remaining.

Ms. Landrieu:Thank you, Mr. President. I see the Senator from Montana, the Finance Chair on the Floor, and also Senator Kyl, the Senator from Arizona who's been one of the chief negotiators on the package and the Senator from Louisiana, Senator Vitter. And I’d like to try before we get to the time allotted for voting say, again, how important it is to try to get this provision in the underlying bill corrected. It really is a technical correction that we're asking for here to allow a placed in service date to be extended from -- December – January 1, 2012, to Jan 1 -- January 1, 2013, a one year extension to finish the low-income housing projects under way, not only in New Orleans, but in the gulf coast. I want to submit a Times-Picayune editorial in support today, I want to submit New York Times editorial, from March 2, and I want to submit to the record a letter of support from Secretary Donovan and Secretary Geithner testifying to the importance of these projects.

The Presiding Officer:Without objection.

Ms. Landrieu: Thank you.. I'd like to ask at this time if Senator Baucus and then senator Kyl and then Senator Vitter might comment -- I see them on the floor -- about the importance of getting this fixed, the likelihood of us doing it today and what might happen as we move forward. Senator Baucus?

Mr. Baucus:I think that –

The Presiding Officer:the Senator from Louisiana.

Mr.. Vitter:Thank you, Mr. President. I certainly join my colleague from Louisiana in stressing the importance of this second year of a Go-Zone extension and look forward to continuing to work with all of these folks in getting that done absolutely as soon as possible in 2011. I want to emphasize one major point, which is, this is not a new benefit to fund new projects, which were never envisioned when the go-zone was initially created. This is simply an extension to fund those crucial projects, which were at the center of this provision from the very beginning that have taken longer than was initially forecast because of labor and other shortages after Hurricane Katrina. So this is simply a time extension to get the very same crucial projects done. Not to add on to that list. And these projects are extremely important, including the wholesale renovation and reconstruction of four major housing projects, in New Orleans post Katrina, that are being done using a dramatically different and better model; mixed income, lower density. not the old-styled housing project from the 1940's and 1950's, which were, in my opinion, horrible social experiments. So, I certainly join in this effort. I’ve been working with all of these folks to try to get this second-year extension in this tax bill. Unfortunately, we weren't able to do that because of a general decision that was apparently made that none of the extenders would go past the end of 2011. But working with these folks, and particularly Senator Kyl, we came to an agreement that we would absolutely work to include this in the first possible technical corrections or other measure that we would be teed up in early 2011, and I thank everyone, particularly my Republican colleague Jon Kyl, for the commitment and I look forward to getting that done at the earliest possible moment.

Ms. Landrieu:I’d like that time charged to the other side. Senator Baucus.

The Presiding Officer:the Senator from Montana.

Mr. Baucus:Both Senators from Louisiana stated the indicates very, -- the case very, very well. This is not a typical extender. This is an important proposal  where the place in service date because the projects in the first year could not be placed in the second year. It is not a traditional extender where we extend for one year, two years. This is more of the nature let's let the start of the first year get accomplished and the second year and that's why this one year added on is so important. I will work with the Senators from the Finance Committee, our Committee, when we bring up the legislation next year to do our very best to make sure this provision is included so that we can help -- help these people who really desperately need housing in Louisiana.

Ms.. Landrieu:Does the senator have any idea about the time and I’d like to see if Senator Kyl would like to say any words on this. His view is very important.

Mr. Baucus:My view would be the earliest possibility. I don't know when that is exactly. It should be something placed high up somewhere near the top.

Ms. Landrieu:Somewhere in January or February?

Mr. Baucus:I hope. The Senator knows how this place operates. But certainly very, very early.

Ms. Landrieu:Senator?

Mr. Kyl:Mr. President?

The Presiding Officer:the Senator from Arizona.

Mr. Kyl:Thank you my colleagues for bringing this issue to the attention of the Senate.  Senator Vitter brought this matter to my attention as the bill was being wrapped up, and I told him at that time that while we could not provide an extension longer than the one in the tax bill, that I would work with him in early 2011 to help these projects obtain the necessary extension. And I say the very same thing to the senior Senator from Louisiana today. I also share the confidence of the Chairman of the Finance Committee that we will find an appropriate tax bill early in  2011 to include this change, which I think we all view as a technical change that will allow this special financing to be used as Congress intended.

Ms. Landrieu:I have a question for the Senator.

The Presiding Officer:the Senator from Louisiana.

Ms. Landrieu:Is it his understanding now having had several conversations with Senator Vitter and myself, that this technical correction we seek is only and limited to the 77 low-income housing, mixed-income projects through the gulf coast. Is that his understanding?

Mr. Kyl:Mr. President, I would say to the Senator from Louisiana, I don't know the technical whether it's 77 or 42 or whatever. But we have all discussed the fact that it is limited to those projects that are started but couldn't be completed within the one-year extension and would require the second extension and it is limited to this area, yes.

Ms. Landrieu:Is it the Senator's intention to push for a tax bill? You were so successful in pushing this tax bill forward. Is it your intention to do that in early January, mid-January, early February?

Mr. Kyl:I would say to my colleague, the Chairman of the Finance Committee, how quick can we do this? He gave me the same answer he gave you: yes, as soon as we can. It is hard to make a commitment about a tax bill coming to the floor. As I also told the senior Senator from Louisiana, there are some other reasons why we have to act quite quickly next year dealing with some technical fixes to other aspects of the tax bill. So there are other reasons to act quickly as well as this particular situation.

Ms. Landrieu:  Well, I would just say if I have 30 seconds left. I’m encouraged, Mr. president, by what I’ve heard from the Senate  Finance Chair and the chief negotiator of tax issues on the Republican side, they recognize this is a technical correction, they recognize it is limited to low-income housing, they recognize the importance of these projects. They committed to work on it as early as possible in the next congress.. I think that gives us a glimmer of hope. We won't get unanimous consent today because there remain objections on the other side of the aisle. But we can move forward with confidence, I think, knowing Senator Kyl is good on his word, Senator Baucus is good on his word, that they will try to fix this at the earliest possible date and I thank the Senator from Arizona and the Senator from Montana.

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