By Christine Stuart, CT NEWS JUNKIE
Five days before Gov. M. Jodi Rell gave her budget address touting green job growth, her administration had a draft report recommending raiding the Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency funds to secure a $1.3 billion stream of revenue.
She didn’t mention that in her farewell budget address.
An email from Rell’s budget director, Robert Genuario to Chief of Staff M. Lisa Moody and Rell herself, shows that the administration had the 11-page draft report Saturday, Jan. 30.
That’s at least five days before Rell said: “Kermit the Frog had it wrong all these years, I’m afraid. It is easy to be green.”
And it was hours before Rell reversed herself and put out the recommendation to redirect $180 million in annual revenues away from the funds. The report was put together with the help of the State Treasurer’s office.
“Please find the most recent draft of the securitization report which we received from the treasurer,” Genuario wrote Moody and Rell on Jan. 30. “We are expecting further revisions over the weekend to further clarify it as a list of options as opposed to a specific recommendation.”
Rell’s name in the email was redacted without explanation.
The draft report recommends borrowing against the energy funds and possibly Keno, a lottery-game. The final report also recommends borrowing against tobacco settlement revenue, tolls, and the sale of state assets.
Green job advocates and environmentalists say that taking the Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency funds to secure $1.3 billion is bad public policy. They argue the state would be diverting a portion of everyone’s electrical bill to cover the state’s budget deficit instead of dedicating that money to energy efficiency and weatherization efforts—an area where green jobs are being created.
Jeffrey Beckham, spokesman for Rell’s budget office, said Wednesday that tough decisions need to be made in order to close the budget deficit. The legislature asked Rell’s administration to identify a $1.3 billion revenue stream in last year’s budget.
David Leischman, chairman of the Connecticut Chapter of the Northeast Energy Efficiency Council, said Wednesday that currently the funds maintain 11,814 green jobs in the state. He said diverting any of these funds won’t save the state money and will cost the state jobs.
When asked if he was surprised Rell’s administration would talk about green job creation before making a recommendation to take away one of its funding streams, House Speaker Chris Donovan said “No.
The state needs to protect these jobs and seize on the opportunity to create more, Donovan said. “We need to jump in with both feet.”
“It’s not shocking, it’s just par for the course with this administration,” Chris Phelps, executive director of Environment Connecticut, said Wednesday. “The sad part is that something like this should be shocking.”
“I’m dumbfounded,” Phelps said. “It’s a rather transparent attempt to avoid bad publicity.”
Beckham said the report recommending which revenue streams that state should use to come up with $1.3 billion was due Feb. 3.
And that’s when it was released, hours after Rell’s budget address when all the cameras were off.
The administration was going back and forth over the cover letter and how the report would be presented, Beckham said Wednesday.
“Those resources are public ratepayer funds and it’s our job to balance the budget,” Beckham said. He said securitizing the Clean Energy Fund, Energy Efficiency Fund, and possibly the lottery-game of Keno are all options at this point. He said the administration isn’t proposing this as an option because it thinks it’s a lousy program and doesn’t support it, but it’s one of the options it needs to consider to close the budget deficit.
“Government’s gotta walk and chew gum at the same time,” Beckham said.
Raiding the two energy funds “sends the wrong message about energy conservation and green job growth,” Sen. Eileen Daily, D-Westbrook, has said.
Daily, who chairs the committee responsible for approving the $1.3 billion revenue stream, said the legislature will have to make a decision by April 17.
But there’s still a question about whether the state can take the revenue in the Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency funds.
Leischman contends that because the state received federal stimulus dollars, it can’t take any money away from those two funds without forfeiting a large amount of it back to the federal government. He said the state can’t securitize those funds for two years.
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