Five interesting items in the omnibus deal

Sarah Menendez Dec 17, 2015

The House passed a $1.1 trillion dollar spending bill and a $622 billion dollar tax cut package in the early hours of the morning today in an effort to avoid another government shutdown. Now the budget deal must be approved by the Senate and the President. The current language of the plan includes the usual spending and cutting, but also has some items that are a little less-known. We took a look at some interesting budget points that may be overshadowed by the sheer mass of the legislation: 2,242 pages.

1. R&D Tax Credits

One of the major policy changes in the tax deal is the move to make Research and Development tax credits permanent. R&D tax credits allow small businesses with $50 million or less in revenue to receive tax credit against alternative minimum tax and in some cases, payroll tax. The language for this tax credit was also amended to include startups that are eligible under the “small business” definition. These tax breaks were first introduced to Congress in 1981 and have been renewed periodically since then. Making R&D credits permanent is expected to cost $113.2 billion in the first decade.

2. Modern slavery

Earlier this year, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the modern slavery and human trafficking that resulted in the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act. The bill called for an increased support and cooperation with efforts to end international slavery. Today’s spending bill committed $25 million to grants for programs to reduce modern slavery and $60 million toward combating human trafficking. These funds will only be available through the 2016 fiscal year and will go toward efforts targeting trafficking and slavery in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

3. NASA

With a renewed bipartisan commitment to aerospace exploration via the Space Act enacted last month, this comes as no surprise. The spending bill allocated $19.3 billion in funding for NASA, a $1.3 billion increase from the previous fiscal year. According to the bill’s language “$4 billion is provided for Exploration, including funding to keep the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Space Launch System on schedule, and $5.6 billion is provided for science programs.” The Atlantic reported that this is the biggest budget NASA will have in at least five years. Now the question is, does this mean we can send a flight to Mars?

4. Mental health

There has been a lot of conversation in national politics about mental health and violence, especially in light of the number of mass shootings that have occurred in recent years. Congress is spending $10 million for “mental health courts and 4 adult and juvenile collaboration program grants,” under DEA expenses as well as $73 million allocated to updating criminal and mental health records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Additionally, the bill calls for $1.5 billion to the National Institute of Mental Health for carrying out part of the Public Health Service bill.

5. Alcohol

 Excise tax was mentioned several times in the tax package, specifically with regards to alcohol. Rum produced in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands is getting an extended tax break, which limits the excise tax on these products. On the mainland, some breweries and wineries were also given tax break under this bill. Additionally, hard cider got an official Congressional definition as a wine that “contains no fruit product or fruit  flavoring other than apple or pear, which contains at least one-half of one percent and less than 8.5 percent alcohol by volume.”

 

 

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