Joint Finance Committee co-chair Robin Vos (R-Burlington) explains he’s not cutting funding to the energy program, he’s just not signing off on the “massive increases.”
Vos says he doesn’t want higher utility rates for Wisconsinites to fund increases to Focus on Energy. “The way Focus on Energy works, especially for residential customers, everyone in this room pays higher electricity costs so that some people can get things for free. That’s the way Focus on Energy works primarily. There are a small number of people who will get that grant and if you are lucky enough to be one of them, perhaps it is a good deal for you.”
However, Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) says rolling back the increases would be harmful to the environment, doesn’t promote job creation, and it will be more costly to residents in the long run. Jauch says spend now; save later. “Other states have demonstrated that the increased contributions, though slight, will make a major difference to residential customers. So it seems to me that if you invest today you save more tomorrow. That’s the bottom line in all of this.”
Approximately $100 million is spent on the energy program annually (utilities paid 1.2 percent of their revenues). Vos says the 20 percent increase to the program for this year will remain. But, he says, beginning January 2012 that dollar amount will revert back to the previously approved $100 million per year with no automatic increases in future years.
Representative Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) points out that the program is being audited and perhaps lawmakers ought to wait for those results before making any decisions.
Keith Reopelle of Clean Wisconsin later said in a statement the move will result in higher energy bills and stifle the creation of thousands of jobs.
Vos’s motion to limit funding passes 12-4. The Public Service Commission requires that utilities give more money to the Focus on Energy program. The additional funding had been voted on by previous members of the legislative budget panel back in December when it was still majority Democrats. Vos vowed at that time that he’d repeal it.