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Higgins: Federal budget package that includes solar tax credit and medical research funding increase will support thousands of jobs in WNY


Wed, Dec 16th 2015 04:55 pm

Higgins highlights tax credits and funding important to Western New York in budget deal released today and scheduled for a vote this week

Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, announced details of a federal tax credit and funding package, set for consideration by the House of Representatives this week, which includes provisions to bolster Western New York's position as a leader in biomedical and solar industries.

In a major victory for Western New York, Higgins won a fight to extend the Solar Investment Tax Credit. The bill allows for a 30 percent credit for the installation of solar on residential and commercial properties through 2019. Higgins led a large-scale, bipartisan push for extension of the credit, expected to create 60,000 jobs nationwide in the solar industry and double solar capacity in the U.S. The extension will benefit demand and operations at the SolarCity plant, under construction at Riverbend in Buffalo, which is projected to create 3,000 jobs in Western New York.

"With an annual growth rate of 73 percent, solar is our fastest-growing energy source supporting clean energy, large-scale economic growth and thousands of jobs across the country and right here in Western New York," Higgins said. "Extension of this credit was critical as Buffalo builds our profile as a solar panel manufacturing hub. This credit benefits consumers, the environment and puts the industry on solid ground to maintain and grow its position as an economic catalyst and employer."

In addition, the federal budget package includes a $2 billion boost for the National Institutes of Health, the largest increase in over a decade. Higgins founded the NIH caucus and led the effort for an increased level of NIH funding with introduction of the Accelerating Biomedical Research Act. Within the NIH funding allocation is a $264 million increase for cancer research and a $350 million increase for Alzheimer's research. In 2014 alone, the NIH supported over $85 million in research funding in Higgins' district, supporting the approximately 15,000 jobs at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and leading to breakthrough treatments for patients.

"The scaled-back budget for biomedical research we've seen in recent years is a backwards approach to health care, costing the country more in the treatment of disease in the long run," Higgins said. "This long-overdue substantial investment in the NIH is a good step forward in resetting our priorities toward the goal of preventing disease and developing better treatments and care for those whose lives are touched by horrible disease."

Below are additional highlights of the legislation set for a vote in the House of Representatives this week:

•Niagara Falls Air Base: $7.7M requested by Higgins and Rep. Chris Collins earlier this year for the remotely piloted aircraft mission

•Great Lakes and Western New York waterways:

  • Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a source of funding for Buffalo River cleanup, increased by $50 million to $300 million, the funding level requested by Higgins, a member of the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force.
  • $1.735 million for Black Rock Channel and Tonawanda Harbor
  • $320,000 for Buffalo Harbor

•Opioid abuse: $70 million to the Centers for Disease Control to increase the efforts to combat prescription drug abuse and overdose. Higgins has led on the opioid epidemic issue with introduction of the TREAT Act and subsequent bipartisan letters

•Zadroga 9/11 compensation fund: Reauthorizes the program for an additional five years; added $6.6 billion to fund the victim compensation fund. Higgins is an original cosponsor of the legislation, which supports 9/11 first responders, including several from Western New York.

•COPS Program: Up to $212 million from $208 million last year; program supports public safety efforts in Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Cheektowaga.

•New markets tax credits: $3.5 billion of new markets tax credits for each year from 2015-19. Since the creation of NMTC in 2000, several local projects have benefited from the program: The Electric Tower, the Oak School Lofts, Ellicott Commons, the Webb Lofts, Asbury Hall, AM&A's Warehouse Lofts, 567 Exchange Street, the Innovation Center at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and, most recently, the Roswell Park Clinical Sciences Center currently under construction.

•Economic development administration: Up to $261 million, an $11 million increase over last year; the program supports job creation, placement and start-up business efforts in Western New York, including more than $1.137 million for LaunchNY and $500,000 for a WNY workforce development project.

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