On the Hill: Appropriations, National Park Maintenance, New Historic Tax Credit Bill, and Greater Chaco Legislation

By Forum Online posted 07-26-2018 13:16


By Government Relations Staff

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Credit: Architect of the Capitol


House Passes Interior Appropriations Bill

On July 19 the House of Representatives approved its version of the FY19 Interior appropriations bill (H.R. 6147) after considering more than 75 amendments. During House floor deliberations, members passed several amendments to increase funding for the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF), including:

  • A bipartisan amendment to raise overall HPF funding by $5 million from Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.; Michael Turner, R-Ohio; Denny Heck, D-Wash.; Joe Courtney, D-Conn.; Adam Smith, D-Wash.; John Katko, R-N.Y.; and William Keating, D-Mass.;
  • An amendment to increase funding for historically black colleges and universities by $2 million from Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C.; and
  • An amendment to increase funding by $2.5 million for competitive grants to preserve the sites and stories of the Civil Rights Movement from Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala.

The additional funding from these amendments raises the House-approved total HPF funding level for FY19 to $101.4 million, which would mark the highest level of HPF funding in history.

The House also rejected several amendments hostile to historic and cultural resource protections, including:

  • An amendment offered by Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., to reduce Land and Water Conservation Fund money for the Bureau of Land Management, which failed by a vote of 237-172;
  • An amendment offered by Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., to prohibit any funds for carrying out the Antiquities Act proclamation establishing the Ironwood Forest National Monument in Arizona, which failed by a vote of 220-193; and
  • An amendment offered by Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wisc., to reduce funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities by 15 percent, which failed by a vote of 297-114.

The full Senate is currently considering its version of the Interior appropriations bill.

New Bill Would Address National Parks Deferred Maintenance

After more than 100 years of operation and inconsistent public funding, the National Park Service (NPS) is facing a deferred maintenance backlog estimated at $11.6 billion. According to FY17 data, 47 percent of the backlog is attributed to historic assets. After several congressional hearings and multiple legislative proposals, Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Mark Warner, D-Va.; Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; and Angus King, I-Maine introduced consensus legislation on June 28.

The Restore Our Parks Act (S. 3172) would create a dedicated fund to tackle the deferred maintenance backlog in addition to annual appropriations. Key provisions of the bill include:

  • Allocating 50 percent of federal mineral revenues from the royalties of on-shore and off-shore oil, gas, and coal—as well as renewables to the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” (which is in effect for five years with revenues capped at $1.3 billion annually)—for high-priority deferred maintenance projects; and
  • Providing a formula that allocates 65 percent of the funds to non-transportation resources, such as historic buildings, and 35 percent to transportation-related assets.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation endorses the bill, which Sen. Alexander noted “could do more to restore our 417 national parks than anything that has happened in the last half century.” If passed, the legislation has the potential to dedicate $6.5 billion to tackling deferred maintenance in our national parks over the next five years.

On July 11 the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks held a hearing about the new legislation. The bill was received favorably by senators on the subcommittee, as well as by each of the panel witnesses. Many of the senators publicly shared their commitment to addressing NPS deferred maintenance and the hope that this bipartisan legislation can pass before the end of the year.

This week the House followed suit and introduced similar legislation, the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act (H.R. 6510). The bill was introduced by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and ranking member Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., along with more than 40 other original cosponsors. The National Trust conducted extensive outreach and issued a statement about the new bill, which was referenced in the House Natural Resources Committee press release

The National Trust has long been working with congressional champions and partners to advance legislation that would create dedicated funding to address the backlog, including submitting comments to the committee in advance of the recent Senate hearing.

This summer we need your help to secure as many Senate and House cosponsors as possible! First, check whether your senators and representative are cosponsors. If not, contact your senators and representative, and ask them to support the new deferred maintenance legislation to help secure much-needed funding for historic and cultural resources in our national parks.

Historic Tax Credit Enhancement Act Introduced

Last month preservation supporters in the House and Senate introduced legislation that would make improvements to the historic tax credit (HTC) program. On June 13 Reps. Darin LaHood, R-Ill., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La.; Ben Cardin, D-Md.; and Susan Collins, R-Maine, introduced the Historic Tax Credit Enhancement Act in the House (H.R. 6081) and Senate (S. 3058), respectively. The legislation would eliminate a provision of the tax code that requires a basis adjustment equal to the amount of the HTC. Implementing this change would bring the HTC in line with the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, thus adding value to the incentive and making it easier to undertake difficult rehabilitation projects.

When a building’s basis is reduced, depreciation deductions over the tax life of the building are less than they would be in any other real estate transaction. In addition to the reduced value of the tax losses, the potential taxable gain upon sale of the building increases. Eliminating the basis adjustment would strengthen investment by maximizing the value of the credit to investors and result in more dollars going into historic rehabilitations. 

With more than 43,000 completed projects since its enactment in 1978, the federal HTC has created more than 2.5 million jobs and leveraged $89.97 billion in private investment in the rehabilitation of historic properties of every period, size, style, and type in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Historic Tax Credit Enhancement Act would help ensure that the most significant federal investment in preservation remains a robust and successful program for all communities, from urban cores to rural Main Streets, across the country. 

Please urge your lawmakers to support the Historic Tax Credit Enhancement Act. 

Supporting Greater Chaco Legislation

The National Trust, along with 44 other preservation and conservation organizations, sent a letter supporting the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act (S. 2907) on July 12. Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. introduced the legislation in May to provide a permanent mineral withdrawal for approximately 316,000 acres of federal lands surrounding Chaco Canyon in northwest New Mexico. 

Chaco Canyon and the surrounding landscape hold remarkable examples of ceremonial buildings, distinctive great houses, and an elaborate network of engineered roads. Chaco Culture—including Chaco Culture National Historical Park and associated sites such as Aztec Ruins and other archaeological sites—was designated a World Heritage Site in 1987. 

Increasing threats from energy development associated with the Mancos-Gallup Shale formation in northwest New Mexico led the National Trust to list the Greater Chaco Landscape among America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2011. In September 2017 Archaeology Southwest released a new report summarizing recent research by the archaeological and academic communities on the Greater Chaco Landscape that underscores the critical need to enhance protections for the area.