People who conserve energy should not be punished with higher taxes. They should be rewarded with tax credits and other incentives. That’s one of the underlying premises behind the tax-free energy plan recently unveiled by House Republicans at the State Capitol. Most state leaders agree on the pursuit of energy independence, but we are not in stride on the manner in which we achieve it.
There are distinct differences between the two approaches that were recently presented. On September 24, Gov. Ed Rendell re-introduced his “Energy Independence Strategy." Two key elements of the plan are a new tax on consumer electric bills and the use of so-called “smart meters," which could cost the average Pennsylvania family up to $250.
The governor wants to borrow $850 million in a bond issue to fund his initiatives, and to repay the money through the surcharge on electric bills that would average $5.40 a year for residential customers and would be capped at $10,000 for industrial users. The money from the new tax would be used for corporate welfare for energy companies and rebates for consumers who buy energy-efficient refrigerators and room air conditioners.
This plan of attack focuses too much on borrowing, a consistent theme of the Rendell Administration, and taking money out of taxpayers’ wallets. A better option would include something that puts money back into those same wallets. Enter “Energy for PA,” the House Republican plan to achieve energy independence.
Here are the four elements of the plan and some of their highlights:
- “Conserve More, Save More"- Exempts energy-efficient appliances from state sales tax and creates a state sales tax deduction of up to $1,500 for energy-efficient upgrades to a taxpayer’s primary residence.
- “Leading by Example"- Reduces state government energy use by 10 percent by 2010 and calls for more use of hybrid vehicles in the state automobile fleet.
- “Self-Reliant PA"- Offers tax credits to Pennsylvania companies that produce alternative fuels, alternative-fueled vehicles or alternative energy power systems and grants of up to $5,000 to help residents pay for the construction of homes with alternative energy gathering systems.
- “Enhanced Oversight"- Streamlines the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permitting process for energy projects, creating new jobs while protecting the environment.
What has been crafted by House Republicans is a plan to empower and incentivize consumers, while putting more of their hard-earned money back in their pockets. Everyone from the person on the street to the people in state government will be encouraged to be more responsible consumers. The positive results will be seen in taxpayers' checkbooks.
All along, Republicans have agreed with the governor’s desire to move Pennsylvania in a different direction, energy-wise. Time was just needed to come up with a plan, as opposed to voting on an idea that was hurriedly put together and placed in front of legislators to be voted on. This is too important of an issue to be rushed through the legislature as the Governor tried to do during the recent debate on the state budget.
“Energy for PA" is the way to go. It will produce savings everywhere from local neighborhoods to the State Capitol in Harrisburg, and is the consumer-friendly approach to proceeding down the path toward energy independence.
Rep. Dave Hickernell
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
House Republican Public Relations