The National Republican Congressional Committee is out with a new ad today criticizing Democrat Rita Hart for supporting a tax credit aimed at boosting Iowa’s economy through investments in renewable chemicals, a growing sector in the state that benefits farmers and the rural economy.
The 30-second ad says Hart, running for an open seat in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, “gave a million-dollar tax break to a billion-dollar industry.”
The vote in question was the Renewable Chemical Production Tax Credit Program, signed into law in 2016 by Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, with near-unanimous support from the Senate and House of Representatives.
Hart, along with Democratic Sen. Bill Dotzler and Republican Reps. Mary Ann Hanusa and and Chip Baltimore, managed the bipartisan bill. The tax credit program provides financial incentives to encourage ethanol and biodiesel plants to extract chemicals from biomass feedstocks, such as starches, oils or sugar, and sell the chemicals for use in plastics, textiles and other consumer products, thus expanding the plants’ markets beyond fuel, food and livestock feeds.
“I am proud of my work across the aisle to create jobs here in Iowa,” Hart said Tuesday in a statement. “These disingenuous attacks from outside interests represent the worst of Washington. We need representatives in D.C. working to bring people together to get things done, not fewer. Mariannette Miller-Meeks needs to level with Iowans about where she stands on the bipartisan priorities her backers are attacking.”
The $10 million tax credit program was established to give Iowa an early advantage in biochemicals, a burgeoning sector of the renewable energy economy. Given the state’s renewable fuels infrastructure, supporters of the tax credit program felt Iowa was well-positioned to tap into the renewable chemicals market if the state would be a partner in growing the industry here.
A March 2016 Des Moines Register article described the legislation as “a priority of Branstad, the Greater Des Moines Partnership economic development organization, the Iowa Board of Regents, and farm and business groups.”
“Wherever there is an ethanol or biodiesel facility in the state, there is a ready supply of biobased materials that can be turned into consumer products like cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, paint and carpet,” Jay Byers and Dan Culhane wrote in a 2015 guest column about the tax credit program. “The potential of this industry is today largely untapped, and rural Iowa stands to benefit the most.”
In the 2nd District, which spans 24 counties in Southeast and Eastern Iowa, ethanol plants operate in West Burlington, Eddyville, Clinton and Muscatine. The biochemicals industry has been pitched as a way to supplement what Iowa’s biofuels industry is already doing, and possibly provide extra opportunities for them to grow or stay sustainable if there’s a downturn for ethanol.
“The tax credits could be a boon to the 11 ethanol plants and three biodiesel refineries in Northwest Iowa, home to one of the state’s largest biofuel clusters,” wrote the Sioux City Journal in a 2015 story examining the tax credits’ possible impact on producers and farmers in that area of the state.
The NRCC’s new anti-Hart ad is the latest example of the Republican group trying to use Hart’s bipartisan votes against her. Earlier this month, the group released an ad slamming Hart for her support of a 2018 bill that created health care options for Iowa Farm Bureau members. The bill was widely supported by Republicans, including 1st District candidate Ashley Hinson, and some Democrats, yet the NRCC now is saying the law allows health care companies “to deny coverage for preexisting conditions.” Today’s NRCC ad, “Heartbreaker,” repeats the same criticism.
By Elizabeth Meyer
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