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Christian conservatives question Florida’s proposed solar energy amendment

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Some Florida conservative Christians have raised concerns about the motives behind the proposed constitutional amendment promoting solar energy in the Sunshine State.

Jim Kallinger, chair of the Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition – a group that calls for the government to “tighten its belt and live within its means” — is now questioning Floridians for Solar Choice.

Solar Choice is seeking a spot on the 2016 ballot for a measure to allow solar energy users to sell power directly to other consumers.

“In March, the Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition sent a letter to the leaders of Floridians for Solar Choice regarding their effort to use the state Constitution to promote solar power over other forms of energy,” Kallinger writes in a statement released Wednesday.

“We requested that they change their proposed amendment to ensure that Florida’s taxpayers would not be saddled with mandates and subsidies should the language be adopted. Our request has been ignored.”

What bothers Kallinger most is the proposed language of the amendment, which he believes could lead to government mandates and taxpayer-funded subsidies. At the same time, the actions of Floridians for Solar Choice Chair Tory Perfetti also raise concerns about the “true intention of this group.”

In seeking to broaden the use of solar energy, Floridians for Solar Choice offers something of an interesting ideological mix: members include Tea Party and Christian Coalition conservatives, with a sprinkling of Libertarian, progressive environmentalists and business interests. The group recently announced that they collected 100,000 signatures in February, the first month of its petition drive.

Kallinger accuses Perfetti of misleading taxpayers about the amendment’s impact, after “misstating” the state’s financial review determined the measure would not increase state and local taxes.

“Perfetti’s statement is a blatant mistruth,” Kallinger said. “In fact, the Financial Impact Estimating Conference (FIEC) Information Statement found that ad valorem taxes will increase because of the amendment.”

The FEIC report states an increase in ad valorem tax revenues is “not expected to offset the reductions in other revenue sources.” Local governments would face a shortfall, Kallinger argues, which would result in increased taxes to offset losses.

Kallinger ended with a warning, declaring he will continue to keep his eye on Solar Choice, as the proposed amendment gets closer to the 2016 ballot.

“It has become clear that the concern surrounding this ballot initiative is growing,” he writes. “We will continue to monitor the actions of the amendment’s sponsors and are exploring what future actions may be warranted to ensure Florida’s families and businesses are protected.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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