Shumlin finds substitute revenues for 55 cent fee on electrical meters

first_imgby Anne Galloway vtdigger.org April 11, 2011 At the 11th hour last week, as the House of Representatives prepared to engage in what promised to be a third reading food fight over a new tax on consumers to fund the Clean Energy Development Fund, which largely benefits solar developers, Gov. Peter Shumlin let it be known at a press conference that he had a plan that would render the 55-cent monthly fee on electric meters unnecessary.Shumlin said he couldn’t reveal what the plan entailed, as at that point it was still in the formative stages. At the time, no one in the leadership of the House seemed to know about it and that lack of communication from the governor’s office led to last-minute, hand-wringing powwow sessions among the committee chairs of Ways and Means and Energy and Natural Resources. Shumlin had an answer, however, and the inflammatory matter, which burned hot in the House and provoked some of the bitterest oratory of the session, was doused in a matter of hours.On Monday, Shumlin announced the plan: The state would leverage the Fund to raise the $2.3 million the 55-cent meter fee was projected to generate.How is that possible? Shumlin said the state, which has made a commitment to pay out $8.6 million in tax credits to 23 businesses over the next five years, will give solar developers half of the value of the credits in cash, upon completion of their projects, in lieu of the full tax credits. This bit of innovative accounting, based on the federal tax credit system for renewables, could save the state between $2.7 million and $3 million this year, he said.‘As a business person, I’m always looking for ways to use limited resources,’ Shumlin said. The question is, he said, ‘How can we recycle money and get the biggest bang for the buck?’Shumlin said he never liked the tax on meters, though he tacitly endorsed it, and he assigned responsibility for the 55-cent fee proposal to VPIRG. It was a conversation with David Blittersdorf, the CEO of AllEarth Renewables, he said that led to the idea of leveraging state tax credits as a way of generating the money needed to shore up the fund. So far, the Shumlin administration has received commitments from three out of 23 companies that are developing 93 projects. He wouldn’t say whether AllEarth was one of the businesses that had lined up for the new cash-for-tax-credit plan.Shumlin’s proposal, like the 55-cent fee, is a one-year fix for the Clean Energy Development Fund. In 2012, the governor said he will impose a tax on high-level nuclear waste storage at the Vermont Yankee in Vernon starting in March 2012, when Entergy is, under Vermont law, supposed to stop operating the nuclear power plant.As for hard feelings generated by the sudden change in game plan, Shumlin said: ‘I understand the process wasn’t as well tuned as we would wish. Judge us by the bills we sign.’When a reporter asked if he was worried about his relationship with the legislators who were sore about his tactics, he said:’If legislators aren’t ticked off most of the time, you’re not doing your job.’Shumlin said the tax credit swap will require new legislation, which he anticipates the House will introduce in the coming weeks. Anne Galloway is editor of vtdigger.orglast_img

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