A new Democratic legislative proposal would grant a tax credit of up to $5 billion for universities with programs studying "environmental justice," according to a draft of the legislation released Tuesday.
The GREEN Act, proposed by Rep. Mike Thompson (D., Calif.), offers up to a $1 billion tax credit in each of the next five years to "institutions of higher education" that establish research programs focused on environmental justice. The credit would be 20 percent of the amount spent by institutions on the environmental justice program, and goes up to 30 percent of the program cost if the institution is a Historically Black College or University or a Minority Serving Institution.
Qualified environmental justice programs must have a "primary purpose of improving or facilitating the improvement of health and economic outcomes of individuals residing in low-income areas or areas populated disproportionately by racial or ethnic minorities," according to a summary of the bill released by Thompson, chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures.
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The bill offers numerous other tax credits to incentivize taxpayers and corporations to make environmentally friendly decisions, such as buying zero-emission electric cars or building renewable energy facilities.
The draft proposal does not, however, detail how to pay for the expensive tax credits—a "revenue raisers" section at the end of the document says only: "To be provided."
"I've long said that if we don't address climate change, nothing else matters as we won't have a planet to pass on to our next generation," Thompson said in a press release on his bill.
Proponents of environmental justice advocate for policies that guarantee the same degree of environmental protection to people of all races or social classes, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Prominent 2020 Democratic candidates have pledged to fight for environmental justice, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) who announced a $1 trillion plan to protect communities vulnerable to climate change.
The draft tax bill is the latest example of the permeation of the concept among both senior leadership and rank-and-file Democrats, with 23 committee Democrats working on the bill with Thompson. Rep. Richard E. Neal (D., Mass), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has signaled support for the bill.