Senate advances reconciliation, impact on muni demand undecided

Bonds

The Senate is set to take action Saturday on a newly inked budget reconciliation bill that continues to lack municipal market priorities but includes climate and energy provisions that issuers support.

Under a deal struck to gain the vote of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., the bill now features a slightly revised 15% corporate minimum tax that would offer relief to advanced manufacturers but could carry some ramifications for muni bond demand.

After months of negotiations, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D- N.Y. and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. on July 27 reached a deal on the reconciliation bill, which they dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act. The bill features provisions related to climate, energy, health care and tax reform, key Democratic planks that the party hopes will boost its chances in the midterms.

Arizona Sen. Krysten Sinema has agreed to support a budget reconciliation bill that requires every Democratic vote in the evenly divided Senate.

Bloomberg News

Sinema, whose vote is needed in the evenly-divided Senate, announced Thursday night she would support the bill after Schumer and Manchin agreed to certain revisions. The deal drops a carried interest tax that would apply to investment fund managers and was estimated to generate $14 billion in federal revenues. The 15% corporate minimum tax was tweaked so that it does not impact manufacturers who rely on accelerated depreciation. To offset lost revenue, a 1% excise tax on stock buybacks was added.

“Following this effort, I look forward to working with Senator Warner to enact carried interest tax reforms, protecting investments in America’s economy and encouraging continued growth while closing the most egregious loopholes that some abuse to avoid paying taxes,” Sinema said in a statement.

On the muni side, the 15% minimum tax on corporate book income for companies with profits of at least $1 billion, may dent demand for tax-exempt securities, although some market participants downplayed the potential effect.

Barclays, in an Aug. 5 Municipal Weekly research note, said the impact would be “a rather marginal change.”

Municipal Market Analytics, in an Aug. 1 note, said the provision “theoretically could cut demand for tax-exempts among companies losing their ability to lower tax burdens below 15% but, assuming few entities already below the 15% rate are buying many tax-exempts at current prices, near-term negatives should be small.”

MMA, which wrote the note before the carried-interest provision was stripped out, said the provision boosting Internal Revenue Service enforcement of the tax code could been seen as “reasonably improving demand for tax-exempt securities.”

Municipal market wish list items like tax-exempt advance refunding that made a brief appearance in an early version of the bill last year are considered unlikely to reappear.

It’s time to look ahead, said Brett Bolton, vice president of federal legislative and regulatory policy at the Bond Dealers of America.

“At this juncture, we are looking past the midterms to a potential lame duck spending package, while also laying ground work to come out running at the beginning of the 118th Congress,” Bolton said. “Muni support is strong on both sides of the aisle, so regardless of the November outcome, we believe opportunities to advance key priorities remain going forward.”

Other major provisions include allowing Medicare to negotiate on certain drug prices and a host of climate- and energy-related provisions.

Issuers like the National League of Cities praised the bill for those provisions.

“These resources and investments will complement the programs and funding provided through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to advance local climate action and create more resilient communities,” said NLC executive director Clarence Anthony said in a statement.

The National Association of Counties notes the legislation would extend the investment tax credit and production tax credit for projects that begin construction before Jan. 1, 2025, and that states and local governments would be able to receive direct payments from the federal government instead of the tax credits. The bill would also establish several grant programs at federal agencies to reduce emission, and counties would be able to apply for the funding.

NACo notes that the bill does not include reforms to the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deduction, a provision that’s important to issuer groups like NACo and high-tax states like New York and California.

Schumer has said he would call a vote Saturday on the motion to proceed, which would start the clock on a 20-hour debate window followed by a “vote-a-rama,” in which lawmakers can offer unlimited amendments. A vote on the legislation could come as soon as Monday. The House would then likely return from its summer break to vote.

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