Lame Duck Update: Setbacks with LIHTC, Slow Progress with Spending

Congress returned to Washington this week after the Thanksgiving holiday with an ambitious agenda to complete before the end of the year, including the passage of a tax extenders package and a spending bill.

Progress was made this week on a tax extenders package; the House on Wednesday passed by 378-46 a one-year, retroactive bill to extend expired credits through the end of 2014. Though the bill includes the 9 percent fixed rate Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), it is essentially useless to LIHTC stakeholders because LIHTC must be applied to future affordable housing developments and the bill expires at the end of 2014.

This is a disappointing turn of events. In late November, Congressional leaders appeared to have worked out a two-year deal. But, the deal did not include the Earned Income Tax Credit, a credit on which many low-income families rely that is slated to expire at the end of the year. The President issued a veto threat and negotiations shifted to a shorter term deal.

The House bill is now with the Senate, which is expected to vote on the bill next week. Opposition has arisen to a wind energy production tax credit that is included in the bill, though it is likely that it will ultimately pass the Senate.

NAHRO has worked closely with the ACTION Campaign and other LIHTC stakeholders to secure the passage of a longer term extension or permanent authorization of the 4 percent and 9 percent LIHTC. NAHRO will continue to do so in 2015 to ensure the fixed rates credits are quickly renewed.

Meanwhile, Congressional leaders are still grappling with how to deal with spending for the remainder of the fiscal year. With less than a week left until the end of the current continuing resolution on December 11, House leaders this week announced a plan to move forward with a “cromnibus” package that would fund most government departments and agencies through an omnibus and provide a short-term continuing resolution for the Department of Homeland Security.

The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) spending bill will be included in the cromnibus, but specific funding levels for programs are not known at this time.

Timing is tight; final negotiations on the cromnibus package are expected to be wrapped up today, leaving the House and Senate little time to approve the bill before the CR expires on Thursday. Conservative House members have voiced opposition to the bill, so Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will need to rely upon Democrats to pass the bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has voice his support for the bill, signaling that it is likely to be approved by the Senate.

Though the deal appears to be palatable on the surface, the passage of a cromnibus is not a done deal.  Depending on the details of the final negotiated package, support on either side of the aisle could disappear. It is also possible that policy riders could be attached to the bill by the House and rejected by the Senate, requiring the House to vote again on the bill to finalize it on a very tight timeline.

Reach out to your legislators today to tell them to approve a spending package that includes THUD.

Check the NAHRO on the Hill blog next week for updates as Congress continues its work in this lame duck session.

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