SEMI Lobbying for Innovation Provisions in Stimulus Bill; Opportunities Likely


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SEMI Lobbying for Innovation Provisions in Stimulus Bill; Opportunities Likely

The year is off to a quick start with fast-moving congressional action on a U.S. economic stimulus bill. Several favorable innovation provisions are under consideration for this stimulus package and SEMI North America (NA) is actively lobbying in support of the provisions— focusing on business taxes, federal investments in R&D, and PV/solar energy.

The U.S. House passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (H.R. 1) on January 28. Senate committees have finalized their portions of the bill and the full Senate will debate the bill and likely vote on it this week. Since the House and Senate versions are different, these versions must be reconciled and both the House and Senate will have to vote on the final package. Congressional leaders are moving quickly to finalize a bill by the President’s Day recess in mid-February.

Some policymakers have major concerns with the bill, including its size, how quickly the legislation would inject money into the economy, the impact on the deficit, and other issues. Even though no House Republicans voted in support of the bill, it appears likely that a final package will be approved given recently expanded Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate.

Splinter Meets with Obama on PV

Lobbying in Washington is intense on the stimulus bill with many industries and interest groups seeking to include favorable provisions. A group of technology CEOs met last week with President Obama to discuss ways to address the significant challenges that companies face. Mike Splinter, CEO of Applied Materials, participated in this meeting and spoke with President Obama about the potential for PV/solar energy to create new jobs and stimulate the economy.

Mike Splinter, CEO, Applied Materials

Alternative energy is one of the priorities of this legislation with numerous provisions and billions of dollars in new spending intended to increase government use of alternative energies, spur development of the domestic market and create “green” jobs. “Structured and implemented in the right way, the recovery package can be much more than just an interim financial rescue plan,” said Splinter. “Wise investment today can lead to a much brighter future for America by putting in place the foundation on which to build a stronger and more competitive economy.”

PV Group Stance on the Stimulus Bill

The new SEMI PV Group recently approved a near-term policy agenda for PV/solar provisions that SEMI would like to see enacted in a stimulus bill. These items are:

    1) Refundability of the solar energy investment tax credit so that it can operate as originally intended and can be used by companies not currently profitable

    2) Creation of a Green Bank or improvements to a Department of Energy loan guarantee program to improve access to capital

    3) Increased government spending on solar facilities for government buildings and military installations

The day after the presidential Inauguration, SEMI submitted a letter to Congress urging inclusion of these priorities in the stimulus bill. The prospects for the loan guarantee program and government spending look promising. SEMI will continue to lobby in support of these items and also will look toward a separate energy bill later in the year for the industry’s PV policy priorities.

SEMI Supports Business Tax and R&D Funding Priorities

In addition to solar, SEMI is actively supporting business tax and R&D funding priorities in the stimulus bill. On tax policy, SEMI supports accelerated depreciation for purchases of new equipment to provide a tax incentive to buy equipment this year. SEMI also supports expansion of the timeframe for net operating loss (NOL) carryovers to provide tax relief for companies not currently profitable. These provisions are included in both the House and Senate bills.

SEMI strongly supports increased federal investments in R&D to promote basic research and to expand grant opportunities for the private sector and universities. Both the House and Senate bills include increased funding for key science agencies in line with the overall goals of the America COMPETES Act that would double these agency budgets over seven years.

 

HOUSE

(passed full House 1/28)

SENATE

(passed committees and

pending before full Senate)

NSF

$3.0 Billion

$1.4 Billion

DOE Office of Science

$2.0 Billion

(includes $400M for new ARPA-E research agency)

$420 Million

(no funds for ARPA-e)

DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewables

$2 Billion

(reserves $1.2 Billion for biomass and geothermal)

$2.6 Billion

(does not specify which energy technologies)

NIST

$520 Million

(includes $70M for Technology Innovation Program (TIP) grants)

$595 Million

(does not include TIP grants)

Government Grants Likely Available to the Private Sector

One likely direct result of the stimulus bill is increased funding for government grants that are available to the private sector. SEMI encourages companies interested in grants to start preparing now and consider doing initial outreach to government agencies. Two programs that could be useful for small- to medium-sized companies are the NIST Technology Innovation Program (http://www.nist.gov/tip/) and the Small Business Innovation Research program (http://www.sbir.gov/about/index.htm). There are also a number of programs related to alternative energy.

Once the stimulus bill is finalized, agencies are expected to quickly release requests for proposals. The government plans to act with urgency and get these funds disbursed quickly to provide immediate economic stimulus. Deadlines for grant applications could be as short as 30 days for formula-based funds, 90 days for competitive grants and 120 days for new competitive grant programs. Decision-making also is expected to move quickly. Companies interested in government grants are encouraged to contact the SEMI Washington office (semidc@semi.org).

Given the challenging market conditions and trends facing the industry, SEMI is looking at new policy proposals to best meet the needs of the industry. While the potential benefits from the stimulus bill are significant and will provide value for the industry, we want to look beyond our current innovation agenda to see what new policy initiatives would be most helpful given current industry circumstances. SEMI North America staff members are meeting with senior industry executives to discuss options and they encourage any interested companies to get in touch with the SEMI Washington office at semidc@semi.org.

For information on the PV Group, please visit www.semi.org/pvgroup. For more information on U.S. Public Policy, please click here. For information on public policy and advocacy in other countries, please click here.