Governor, Energy Bill: Put Power In Florida’s Economy

Florida is rich in a variety of energy resources. While it is not an oil state within the boundaries of its land, Florida has renewable energy — solar, biomass and more — with potential that should be explored.

Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam, under whose department energy now falls, worked with the Legislature during its January-to-March annual session to pass what he called a modest bill. The effort of Putnam, a Republican from Bartow, and several legislators who took lead positions on the bill, including state Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, resulted in passage of the state’s first energy bill in four years.

Energy — particularly as oil prices rise again — must be plentiful and affordable for Floridians to rebuild the state’s economy. This requires a coordinated effort, such as the energy bill (HB 7117) that is before Gov. Rick Scott.

The governor should sign the bill.

Until last week, there was little reason to think he would not. Then, tea party and other conservative groups, including Americans for Prosperity and the John Birch Society, wrote Scott a letter asking him to veto the bill. They said he should do so because it would “circumvent the free-market and consumer choice,” and permit the state to pick winners and losers via tax credits.

Normally such a letter would not be of concern because its main points are untrue.

However, Scott owes much to tea party groups across Florida. Their support played a great role in his gubernatorial election. Indeed, in February 2011, Scott broke with tradition and traveled outside of Tallahassee to a tea party gathering to deliver his first annual budget — one that cut many programs and projects that had found disfavor among his tea party supporters.

STICK TO THE FACTS

Scott should not let such politics sway him from signing this valuable legislation, which would allow the state to begin making up lost time in a field that is so important to Florida businesses and residents alike.

The governor should listen to Putnam, a policy wonk who plays straight with the operational aspects of government.

Putnam refuted the tea party claims before reporters Wednesday:

“We’re relying on the market to make decisions with this legislation, we are not picking winners and losers. We’re not saying solar is better or wind is better, or biomass is better. We’re saying if you spend real capital, and put real bricks and mortar in the ground, and hire people, and actually are producing renewable fuel or electricity, then you are eligible for a tax credit,” he said. “It is not an up-front subsidy to help you get there. It is only after you have spent significant amounts of private capital.”

Scott should realize that the bill is a reasonable effort to restart work toward a more efficient, more affordable energy future for Florida — and sign it.

Posted on: theledger.com
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