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State economists confirm estimate “Smart Solar” amendment will not increase public spending

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

A panel of state economists and analysts estimated Monday one of two dueling ballot initiatives dealing with solar energy voters may consider will not have any affect on state or local government spending should it pass.

The meeting was the panel’s second on the topic, and confirmed the estimate as well as drafted a definitive statement on the issue endorsed by each of the conferees on a petition put forth entitled “Rights of Electricity Consumers Concerning Solar Energy Choice.”

The Financial Impact Estimating Conference, a slate of economists for the Legislature and executive branch, previously held a workshop in Tallahassee earlier this month to hear from principals representing the group supporting the amendment — a utilities-backed group calling itself Consumers for Smart Solar — and to make changes to a draft impact statement regarding its likely effects.

Conversation largely turned on language regarding what one economist called the amendment’s “permissive” nature — that is, it allows rather than mandates governmental action.

At issue was a part of the bill that “ensures” traditional electricity ratepayers won’t have to pitch in for those who spring for solar energy panels. The sentence containing the language is as follows:

“State and local governments shall retain the ability to protect consumer rights and public health and safety, and to ensure that consumers who do not choose to install solar are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do.”

Representatives of Consumers for Smart Solar this month said the amendment would not require any additional spending. Representatives for the Florida Association of Counties testified they felt it would in fact increase spending, but the estimating panel ultimately gave the proponents’ testimony more deference.

The conference, called “FIEC” in Capitol-speak, met in accordance with a state statute that requires such a panel to “review, analyze, and estimate the financial impact of amendments to, or revisions of, the state constitution by initiative.”

The FIEC will not meet again on the likely effect on the amendment.

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Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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