Hours after Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s farewell budget address, the Office of Policy and Management released its recommendations for which revenue stream it would like to see the state borrow against to find $1.3 billion to balance the state budget.
Its number one recommendation was the state’s Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Fund.
If the recommendation is adopted, it means the state will be diverting a portion of everyone’s electrical bill to cover the state’s budget deficit instead of dedicating that money to energy efficiency and weatherization efforts—an area where green jobs are being created.
“Without the investments in clean energy technology provided by these funds, Connecticut will no longer be able to make any significant efforts to help families and businesses put money in their pockets by cutting their energy bills,“ Chris Phelps, program director for Environment Connecticut, said Thursday. “Solar, fuel cell, wind and geothermal businesses will no longer be able to call Connecticut home.”
Phelps said the two funds are the foundation for all clean energy investments in the state and the recommendation is in direct conflict with Rell’s budget address Wednesday.
“One area where we see a large number of new start-ups of small businesses is in green technology and clean, renewable energy,” Rell said Wednesday. “Kermit the Frog had it wrong all these years, I’m afraid. It is easy to be green.”
Rell’s Budget Director Robert Genuario told the legislature’s Appropriations Committee Thursday that nobody likes securitization, however, it’s better than creating a new tax because tax increases tend to be permanent.
But several lawmakers objected to the idea of using those two funds.
“I think it would be a mistake,” Sen. Eileen Daily, the Democrat who co-chairs the legislature’s Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee, said Thursday.
She said even though some of the other options aren’t as stable as the energy funds, she would prefer looking at borrowing against the tobacco settlement fund or revenues from Keno, the lottery-type game Rell proposed creating in her budget address.
Raiding the two energy funds “sends the wrong message about energy conservation and green job growth,” Daily said.
Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, said if the state wants to support the creation of green jobs then eliminating the fund isn’t the right thing to do.
Utility companies agree.
“We don’t think it’s beneficial to our customers, who pay into those funds,“ Daniel Moore, government affairs manager for Northeast Utilities, said. That money should be used to help consumers and businesses reduce their energy costs, he said.
He said over the past few years the legislature has worked hard to protect those funds and expects it to do the same this year.
Daily said the legislature will have to make a decision about which fund to borrow against by April 17. She said the issue will be part of a continuing conversation on the topic.