ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Larry Hogan Tuesday announced initiatives that would pump nearly $65 million in state funding into environmental programs promoting clean energy and jobs and tax credits for electric cars.
Hogan’s announcement, coming a week before the start of the 2017 session, laid out some of the governor’s environmental priorities. It also sets the stage for an expected attempt by the General Assembly to override his veto on a bill increasing the amount of energy that must be generated by wind and solar energy and which would also fund job training.
“All of these proposals that I am talking about today are common-sense, innovative, forward-thinking solutions to ensure that Maryland continues to lead the way in safeguarding our environment while also growing jobs and improving our economy,” Hogan said. “We owe it to the next generation of Marylanders to continue to find innovative and cost-effective ways to protect Maryland’s environment and to stimulate continued economic growth and improvement in Maryland.”
Included in Hogan’s plan are:
- Investing an additional $3 million in the Employment Advancement Right Now program that would provide training to fill an estimated 1,500 jobs in the solar, wind and hydroelectric energy fields.
- Using $41 million from the Strategic Energy Investment Fund within the Maryland Energy Administration for renewable energy projects. Hogan said the investment was part of the merger negotiations with Exelon.
- Expanding tax credits for the purchase of electric cars and the installation of charging stations under the Clean Cars Act of 2017. The governor said the program would expand the current tax credit program by about one-third for consumers who buy electric cars and double the rebate for charging stations.
- Using $7.5 million for the creation of the Green Energy Institute in conjunction with University of Maryland Energy Research Center and the Maryland Clean Energy Center. The goal of the institute would be to attract private investment for clean energy projects in the state.
- Introducing the Clean Water Commerce Act, which would provide $10 million from the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund for the purchase of nutrient pollution reduction credits. Hogan called the proposal a “cost effective, market-based solution that will allow the state to meet Chesapeake Bay Watershed Improvement goals by the year 2020.”
Copies of the proposed legislation were not available.
Alison Prost, Maryland executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, expressed cautious optimism regarding Hogan’s proposal.
“We need to see the language,” Prost said.
Prost said there are models in other states, such as Virginia, where permanent tax credit programs are in place that provide transparency in tracking real reductions in phosphorous pollution. She added that taking the money from a fund that has been used to upgrade sewage treatment plants makes sense because all of the large projects have been financed, leaving money for new initiatives.
Last year, Hogan vetoed legislation that mandated the state increase the amount of electricity generated by wind and solar sources to 25 percent by 2020. The measure enjoys strong support from legislature Democrats.
Hogan, speaking on Tuesday, called the vetoed bill a tax on Maryland consumers.
“It was a $100 million tax increase that I opposed. I think we’re able to accomplish a lot of these things without raising, making hard-working Marylanders pay more than they do,” Hogan told reporters. “Back during the campaign I was fighting against the rain tax, right? I jokingly said, ‘What are they going to think of next, a sunshine tax?’ This is actually a sunshine tax. It’s charging people every month on their bill to force people to buy expensive solar and wind energy. We don’t need this bill to pass.”
“I’m just opposed to the sunshine and wind tax,” Hogan said.