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End-of-Year Spending Bill Presents Opportunities for Taxpayers

by Nan Swift / /

Taxpayers were disappointed to see the appropriations process break down due to the mutual ambition of both parties to increase spending. NTU opposed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 and is dismayed that Congress cannot appropriate through normal order to the very modest caps imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011. However, despite the lamentable increase in spending anticipated in the 2016 fiscal year, lawmakers still have an important opportunity to steward taxpayer funds toward the goal of good governance.

To that end, NTU urges lawmakers to take into consideration the following recommendations as you finalize the spending package:

Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration Appropriations

  • NTU supports a one year delay of the costly menu labeling rule for restaurants, grocery stores, and other food retailers.

  • NTU urges that lawmakers do not rescind the Bipartisan Budget deal savings achieved from renegotiating the Standard Reinsurance Agreement with crop insurance companies.

  • NTU recommends that lawmakers take this opportunity to prohibit the U.S. Department of Agriculture from disbursing $100 million on unnecessary and wasteful blender pump grants. Congress has repeatedly limited funds for blender pumps on a bipartisan basis in the past and the 2014 Farm bill specifically excluded blender pumps from qualifying for funding under past programs.

Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations

  • NTU supports the Luetkemeyer (R-MO) amendment to H.R. 2578 prohibiting funding for Operation Chokepoint, an initiative that inappropriately targets legal businesses viewed unfavorably by the Administration.

  • NTU supports the Goodlatte (R-VA) amendment to H.R. 2578 prohibiting the Department of Justice from requiring defendants to donate funds to private organizations as part of legal settlements. According to the Judiciary Committee, this practice has forced individuals and businesses to contribute approximately a half a billion dollars to activist groups over the past 16 months.

Department of Defense Appropriations

  • NTU recommends adhering to the slightly smaller F-35 purchase proposed in S. 1558, which exceeds the Pentagon’s budget request by six planes rather than the eight appropriated for in H.R. 2685. Congress should be delaying and reducing F-35 procurement until major safety and technical concerns can be remedied.

  • NTU supports the elimination of a longstanding set-aside program that requires tons of anthracite coal to be shipped from northeastern Pennsylvania to military bases in Germany, where it is used to heat facilities. Initially enacted in 1961, this provision costs taxpayers $20 million a year and is long overdue for repeal. An amendment to strike this “zombie earmark,” Section 8053 in H.R. 2685, passed the House with broad bipartisan support, 252-179, and is not included in the S. 1558, the Senate mark.

  • NTU urges lawmakers to remove the provision in H.R. 2685 as amended  that would authorize the transfer of up to $3.5 billion to the sea-based deterrence fund. Neither the House or Senate committee marks include this gimmick that would squeeze out other priorities and force massive budget increases in the future.

  • NTU supports the prohibition of funds to enforce Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, which would prohibit federal agencies from purchasing fuel from non-conventional sources such as coal-to-liquids, oil shale, and oil sands.

  • NTU supports the McClintock (R-CA) amendment to H.R. 2685 prohibiting funding to comply with costly green energy executive orders and laws.

Energy and Water Appropriations

  • NTU supports the prohibition of any expansion of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act that would occur by changing the definition of “navigable.” This attempt at overreach by the federal government would increase burdensome regulations on a breathtaking scale.

  • NTU supports the Burgess (R-TX) amendment to H.R. 2028 prohibiting funds from being used to enforce light bulb standards in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

  • NTU supports the Rothfus (R-PA) amendment to H.R. 2028 prohibiting funds to apply the  report entitled “Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Perspective on Exporting Liquified Natural Gas from the United States” to determine whether a LNG export application is in the public interest. The report would unnecessarily delay LNG exports.

  • NTU strongly opposes the Abraham (R-LA) amendment to H.R. 2028 prohibiting funds to implement Executive Order 13690 and the associated Federal Flood Risk Management Standard.

Financial Services and General Government Appropriations

  • NTU strongly supports a prohibition on proposed regulations that would restrict the free speech and political activities of 501(c)(4) organizations, as well as a prohibition of funds for the White House to order the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to determine the tax-exempt status of an organization. Likewise, NTU strongly supports prohibiting the use of funds for the IRS to target groups or individuals for their ideological beliefs or for exercising their First Amendment rights.

  • NTU supports a prohibition on funds for bonuses or to rehire former IRS employees unless employee conduct and tax compliance is given consideration.

  • NTU supports a requirement for extensive reporting on IRS spending and a prohibition on funds for the production of inappropriate videos and conferences.

  • NTU strongly supports provisions to stop the IRS from further implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), including a provision on any transfers of funding from the Department of Health and Human Services to the IRS for PPACA uses, and a prohibition on the funding for the IRS to implement the individual mandate tax penalty.

  • NTU supports a provision requiring the Administration to report to Congress on the cost and regulatory burdens of the Dodd-Frank Act.

  • NTU supports prohibiting the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) from requiring the disclosure of political donation information in filings or spending money out of its “reserve fund.”

  • NTU supports a provision to increase oversight of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) by bringing funding for the agency under the annual congressional appropriations process and requiring extensive reporting of the CFPB’s activities, thereby increasing transparency and accountability of the agency’s use of taxpayer dollars.

  • NTU strongly supports a provisions prohibiting the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) from implementing net neutrality until certain court cases are resolved, as well as requiring newly proposed regulations to be made public for 21 days before the Commission votes on them, and prohibiting the FCC from regulating rates for either wireline or wireless Internet service.

  • NTU opposes a prohibition on funding to implement Executive Order 13690, establishing a Federal Flood Risk Management Standard extending to all Federal agencies in FY16.

  • NTU supports a prohibition on funding for the Financial Stability Oversight Council to designate non-banks as “systemically important financial institutions,” thereby imposing costly new regulations on their activities.

  • NTU supports the Financial Regulatory Improvement Act found in the Senate mark, S. 1910, which would ease some Dodd-Frank restrictions on small rural banks.

  • NTU strongly urges lawmakers to include an extension of the Internet tax moratorium in this legislation to preserve freedom from discriminatory Internet taxation.  

Homeland Security Appropriations

  • NTU strongly opposes a blanket prohibition in the Senate mark, S. 1619, prohibiting funds to implement Executive Order 13690, establishing a Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, this fiscal year or any other fiscal year at any agency. Congress should not bar implementation of this important flood management reform that would help protect taxpayer investments and increase safety.

Interior and Environment Appropriations

  • NTU supports numerous provisions aimed at halting costly, job-killing Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations including a prohibition from implementing new greenhouse gas regulations for new and existing power plants, a prohibition on changing the definition of “navigable waters,” a prohibition from imposing duplicative financial assurance requirements, and a prohibition on the use of the social cost of carbon in rulemaking until revisions are made to that questionable standard.

  • NTU supports blocking plans to increase oil and gas inspection fees.

  • NTU supports a provision in the Senate mark, S. 1645, which prohibits the EPA from using funds to implement new ozone regulations until at least 85 percent of the counties that were nonattainment areas under the previous standard achieve full compliance with that standard.

  • NTU recommends that lawmakers include a prohibition on funding the EPA’s March 2015 regulation restricting residential wood heater emissions.

Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Appropriations

  • NTU supports provisions aimed at stopping the implementation of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

  • NTU supports a prohibition on funds to make Risk Corridor payments.

  • NTU supports a prohibition on funds from being used for state-based exchanges established under PPACA.

  • NTU supports a requirement for HHS to provide Congress with detailed, monthly enrollment figures of the exchanges established under PPACA.

  • NTU supports a rescission of funds previously provided for the Independent Payment Advisory Board.

  • NTU further recommends that lawmakers include a prohibition on federal loans or other funding for state nonprofit health plans, or co-ops. As failures mount, these are an increasingly risky investment for taxpayers or consumers.

  • NTU supports a prohibition on the National Labor Relations Board (NRLB) from issuing new joint-employer standards.

  • NTU supports a prohibition on regulatory changes to the definition of the term “fiduciary.” The rule would impose new burdens and limit consumer choice in retirement savings vehicles.

  • NTU supports a prohibition on the Department of Education from establishing a college ratings system.

Legislative Branch Appropriations

  • NTU supports a Flores (R-TX) Amendment to H.R. 2250 prohibiting funds for the delivery of printed copies of the Congressional Pictorial Dictionary in the House.

  • NTU supports the Ratcliffe (R-TX) Amendment to H.R. 2250, which passed with broad bipartisan support, to eliminate funding for the duplicative Open World Leadership Center.

  • NTU supports a prohibition on bonus payments to contractors behind schedule or over budget.

Military Construction, Veteran Affairs Appropriations

  • NTU supports the Rothfus (R-PA) Amendment to H.R. 2029 prohibiting bonuses for senior VA employees.

State and Foreign Operations Appropriations

  • NTU supports restrictions on funding for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as well as provisions that would increase transparency, accountability, and lending requirements.

  • NTU opposes funding for the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, both of which sidestep the principle of “fair value” and expose taxpayers to significant potential risk while at the same time distorting markets and crowding out private, domestic investment.

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations

  • NTU supports the Denham (R-CA) Amendment to H.R. 2577, prohibiting funds for high speed rail in California.

  • NTU supports a prohibition on funds from being used for any projects that seek to use eminent domain unless employed only for public use.