Maine lawmakers override governor's veto of solar bill

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While state governments across the United States are increasingly embracing solar power, one New England leader has flat out rejected the notion of supporting a solar energy program because it would establish a new tax.

Maine Governor Paul LePage vetoed a bill on Friday that aimed at improving the state’s economy and energy security with solar and wind energy. According to the Bangor Daily News, the bill would have established a new tax of 0.011 cents per kilowatt-hour on residential and commercial electricity – about $0.05 a month for average homeowners — to fund the program.

The state’s House of Representatives, however, voted on Monday to override the veto.

The bill, which has had broad support, would set up a $1 million program to back both PV plant installations as well as heat pumps for low-income residents, who could receive rebates of up to $2,000. The program would initially support the creation of more than 1,250 new solar and hot water projects in the state.

The House voted 105-41 to override LePage. According to the Bangor Daily News, LePage said he vetoed the measure because he would not support any legislation that causes Maine’s already steep energy prices to go higher.

The Senate is expected to vote on the matter later this week. Two-thirds of those present would have to vote to override the governor’s veto for the bill to become law. The Senate had previously approved the bill on a vote of 21-14.

Some critics of the bill said they opposed it because solar installations were already on the rise while the cost of PV systems was declining. The Bangor Daily News quoted State Rep. Larry Dunphy, who said stressed that Maine still had the 12th highest priced electricity in the United States and that the bill did little to nothing to reduce that cost.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Terry Morrison, said the state simply could not "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."