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At a time when the Louisiana legislature is facing a $1.6 billion budget shortfall with massive cuts in important programs like healthcare and education as a solution, legislators realize tough decisions have to be made—even when the choice may anger advocates who depend on the handouts they claim are essential for survival.
Such is the case of the solar industry in Louisiana. On April 27, the Ways and Means Committee voted on three different bills that will benefit the budget. Each bill faced opposition from the solar industry that stacked the deck with impassioned presenters claiming that the bills will kill jobs and hurt the poors’ opportunities for solar power.
Aaron Dirks, chairman and cofounder of Posigen, spoke in opposition to one of the bills. (Not surprisingly, virtually all of the opposition came from those within the solar industry.) Dirks, who claimed Posigen is “the fourth largest solar company in America,” touted his Harvard Business School education and the status of his checkbook. He claimed: “I am a successful businessman, this is my 12th business. And I’m proud to say also that we are not arguing today whether or not we should incentivize families from being able to create their own power and that solar is good. But it seems like today that this issue is should it also be available to families who can’t write a $25,000, or now $20,000, check, or go borrow that money from a bank. Should it be accessible to all our Louisiana working families.”
But is solar power, propping up the Harvard educated’s 12th business, really what Louisiana working families are clamoring for?
Or, as Representative James believes, are they more concerned about “the $7 billion give way, tax dollars that we give out, tax dollars that deserve to go to our schools, our hospitals and our roads.” James continued: “This has been an eight year subsidy.” He added: I have nothing against the solar industry, but I am looking out for the future of our state.”
In presenting HB 510, Representative James called it “a bold step, a bold and necessary step for us to correct wrongs.” With the state facing a 56 percent cut to higher education, James says everything needs to be done to be sure that “the single mom has a college that’s affordable to go to.” Without that, there’s no hope she might every set foot in Harvard Business School. James realizes that protecting “the critical services of the state” will require legislators to make “some tough decisions.” And they did.
Legislators saw through the flimflam. They understand that in neighboring states without the generous subsidies, the solar industry has still created jobs. They also understand that a primary driver of increases in electricity costs is the escalating implementation of solar panels.
After the votes, each of the three bills move forward to a floor vote. For the sake of Louisiana’s critical services, hopefully the full House will vote with the same foresight.