Legislature's use of Renewable Energy Fund called 'bait and switch'
When the surplus was revealed in the fund's annual report last October, it was obviously low-hanging fruit for lawmakers trying to balance the state budget with limited options for new revenue. Asked about the likelihood of raiding the fund in May, Gov. Maggie Hassan said the state had to confront a variety of tough choices, especially if it was to avoid a Senate-proposed $50 million cut in state personnel costs.
The statute creating the renewable-energy program clearly states that the funds collected cannot be used for any other purpose, but the Legislature works around those restrictions by including this phrase when redirecting money from a dedicated fund: "notwithstanding any provision of the law to the contrary."
Ratepayers don't see a separate line for renewable-energy compliance on their electric bills. It's blended into the energy supply rate.
Epsen said lawmakers have made a practice of raiding dedicated funds to avoid accountability for tax increases.
The Renewable Energy Rebate program provides partial funding or rebates for residential and commercial installations, including wood-pellet boilers and solar panel arrays for electricity or hot water.
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