End of advanced auto tech loan program sought

November 4, 2011 http://detnews.com/article/20111104/AUTO01/111040318

End of advanced auto tech loan program sought

DAVID SHEPARDSON
/ Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington— A Texas Republican has proposed ending the government’s $25 billion loan program to help automakers retool plants to build more fuel-efficient vehicles.

U.S. Rep. Bill Flores introduced a bill this week to end the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program created by Congress in 2007.

“My proposed bill to terminate the program prior to the end of the current fiscal year could potentially save additional billions in unused taxpayer dollars. Repealing the ATVM loan program will preserve much-needed funds to support projects that have the best chance of providing middle-class jobs here at home in the near term,” Flores said.

“It will also ensure that funds are provided for an immediate need, rather than letting them sit idly by waiting for a careless and inefficient bureaucratic process that has made little progress in the past three years.”

Congress approved $7.5 billion to subsidize up to $25 billion in loans; to date, $9.2 billion in loans have been approved.

Ford Motor Co. received a $5.9 billion loan to underwrite 13 projects supporting 33,000 jobs in Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio, while Nissan Motor Co. received $1.4 billion to retool its Smyrna, Tenn., assembly plant to manufacture the all-electric Nissan Leaf, and to build an advanced battery manufacturing facility.

Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, denounced the effort. “This is a direct attack on a program that’s essential to the auto industry,” he said, adding that it is essential to building greener vehicles.

House Republican leaders touted the proposal as part of its “You Cut” program that offers regular spending cuts. It’s not likely that the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, will take up the measure.

Democrats in September defeated GOP efforts to cut $1.5 billion from the remaining $4 billion, saying Republicans wanted to cut a program that had created thousands of jobs to pay for disaster relief.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, urged her Democratic colleagues at a party meeting to oppose the cuts; Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, led efforts in the House to defeat the cuts.

Democrats cited the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers, two groups usually allied with Republicans, in defending the program.

Chrysler Group LLC is seeking about $3.5 billion in loans and has been in talks with the Energy Department for more than 18 months.

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