House Rep. Joseph “Chip” Troiano posted a lengthy appeal on Front Porch Forum and the Hardwick Gazette in support of S.5, the “Affordable Heat Act.” Troiano claims he supports “policies that positively impact the lives of all Vermonters.”
But S.5 burdens low income and fixed-income Vermonters in favor of wealthier beneficiaries. My conversation with Chip confirmed this.
The representative’s opinion piece in the Hardwick Gazette advocated for solar panels:
I had the good fortune to install Solar power to my home last year, my power bill went from $80.00 to $120 a month to $28.00 a month last summer. This winter I installed the latest technology heat pump, I received a credit for excess power I made. When that credit was applied to my power bill I had no electric bill for the months of December and January, I heated and powered my home in the dead of winter for free!
This notion that heat and power were “free” seemed unsupportable, so I emailed Rep. Troiano and asked him the following question:
What you claim is “heating your home for free” is actually subsidized by higher rates on electricity users who do not have, and may not be able to afford, heat pumps or solar panels. Do you have any concerns at all about regressively funding your new technologies (buying products from companies who make profits for their shareholders, just not the oil companies you selectively target) on the backs of fixed-income retirees and working class taxpayers?
The representative, a Democrat who represents Stannard, offered his response:
I have heard this from some others and my response is the same. It is not for you or anyone else to question my motivation to make these changes in the way I heat and power my home. For the past 50 years I paid the high rates of power to Washington Electric. Now I am very happy to receive a monthly bill that is $28 rather than $80 to 100 and $120 in the winter. You are right and I admit that I am fortunate to have been able to make this move.
Rooftop arrays are much less efficient than field arrays (about twice as costly per kilowatt hour). It would be far more equitable for rate hikes to be applied to fund arrays that provide greater efficiency and savings for everyone, instead of extracting funds from people who can’t afford installations (or have poor locations) for the pockets of people like Rep. Troiano. The board of Washington Electric Cooperative unanimously proclaimed that the current rate structure is regressive and should end. The representative from Stannard could afford to escape the “high rates of power” that saddle people of more meager means.
Rep. Troiano claimed he bought the solar tracker and heat pump locally:
I purchased both the solar tracker and the heat pump from the same company which is local, and once again your conclusions and comments about supporting shareholders at the expense of rate payers is out of line. For me personally I would rather support a local company rather than support an oil company that we Vermonters pay millions of dollars to out of state companies.
I suppose some might view buying Chinese fireworks or Japanese cars locally as different from buying oil locally. I challenged Troiano on this by asking him directly:
The company that manufactured your products is a Vermont company? Which one? — the solar panels, or the heat pump? I doubt either was manufactured in Vermont. But the key point of my question is, do you believe it is equitable for elderly Vermonters who can’t afford a solar panel (or whose home is not located in a place where they can effectively install one) to subsidize yours? It is a simple tax policy question. You gushed about how great your products are while ignoring who paid for them. Then you boast about how you are heating and electrifying your home “for free.” An important consideration for S.5 should also be the regressive pattern of taking from the poor through rates and then hiding that effort, like you do here.
In his FPF post, Rep. Troiano denounced claims that S.5 would cause significant cost increases, and speculated that “any increase could be pennies.” He could not back up his claims though, and voted against an amendment that would have limited any S.5 fuel surcharges to 20 cents.
He instead wrote me: “We disagree John. Good bye there is apparently no further discussion with you. “
As to regressive funding, there was no discussion at all.
Policies that favor the wealthy at the expense of the poor are similarly advanced by progressives for universal school lunches, in which low income Vermonters will now pay for the meals of rich kids; and gas taxes on working Vermonters to fund EV cars (which are then exempt from gas taxes). These upside-down structures hurt low income, working class families.
John Klar is an attorney and farmer residing in Brookfield. © Copyright True North Reports 2023. All rights reserved.