Despite strong bi-partisan support, Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) vetoed a bill on Friday designed to fund a statewide solar energy program, calling the estimated 5-cent per month tax increase on power bills “regressive,’ according to Bangor Daily News.
The bill, LD 1252, An Act to Improve Maine’s Economy and Energy Security with Solar and Wind Energy which passed the House 109-30 and the Senate 22-12, would have established a new tax — 0.011 cents per kilowatt-hour — on residential and commercial electric bills to fund the program.
Analysts estimate that the new tax would amount to about a five-cent per month increase on power bills.
Defending his veto, Le Page wrote in his veto message: “This is a particularly painful time to impose an additional tax on electricity.”
“Energy taxes are regressive and disproportionately hurt our low-income households,” he continued. “This bill would impose the tax on thousands of hardworking families just to provide the few who have the means to purchase a $20,000 solar system with a rebate of an estimated $2,000.”
The bill had previously been amended by Rep. Lance Harvell, (R-Farmington), so that low-income Mainers who qualify for federal heating assistance would qualify for rebates for heat pumps.
In a written statement bill sponsor, Rep. Terry Morrison, (D-South Portland), wrote: “We simply can’t afford to ignore solar energy, which is renewable, clean and helps keep down electricity bills that are rising because of the expansion of transmission and distribution lines.”
“This veto is even more baffling because a Republican amendment improved the bill by adding heat pump rebates for low-income Mainers,” Morrison added.
The veto leaves Maine as the only state in New England without a state program in place to help residents install solar projects in both their homes and at their place of business.