By John McClaughry
Last week Senate President Tim Ashe ominously “turned open the spigot” to move legislation not related to the coronavirus pandemic. The lead bill to glide through the Senate was S.337, which would allow Energy Efficiency Vermont and Burlington Electric the authority to spend some of their ratepayer tax funds on transportation and heating efficiency projects.
To put this in perspective, one of Sen. Peter Shumlin’s big ideas a decade ago was to create a thermal efficiency utility to do just this: subsidize home heating efficiency and vehicle efficiency. Gov. Jim Douglas killed that bill with a veto, but the Democrats keep trying to find some way to hit up somebody to pay for this pet component of the Democrats’ never-ending war against climate change. Last year it was taxing home heating oil to pay for the subsidies, which finally failed, and last January it was the Transportation Climate Initiative to levy a 17 cents a gallon tax on gas and diesel fuel to subsidize mainly electric cars and bike paths, which has been put on hold for now.
The shocking thing about this bill, S.377, was that it passed 27-1. Only one Republican, Sen. Randy Brock, had enough sense to see where this was going — namely, to shift taxes on electric ratepayers to subsidizing heating improvements and electric vehicles, thereby increasing the pressure next year for jacking up electric rates to keep on paying for ever more electric efficiency.
John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.