Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Poison pill in Solar Bill makes Governor back away

Democrats in Sacramento have proven they care more about labor unions than the environment, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is showing that he ain't gonna take it.

"Senate Bill 1 abruptly lost its bipartisan support when union-sponsored amendments were added that would drive up the costs of solar installations," said Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Margita Thompson. "The governor does not support the recent amendments and considers the bill unacceptable in its current form."

SB 1 could provide more than $2 billion toward solar-panel installations in California on a million residential, commercial and industrial buildings by 2019. Schwarzenegger made the bill a cornerstone of his legislative package in an attempt to appeal to environmentalists, and it has been one of the few high-profile proposals in a lackluster legislative session.

Boasting of bipartisan cooperation, Schwarzenegger met last Wednesday with Republican and Democratic legislative leaders to discuss his top priorities.

But one day later, Assembly Democrats added amendments to Schwarzenegger's solar plan that would require workers to receive a union-based wage on commercial and industrial solar installations. The bill also requires future solar installers to have an electrician's license and imposes penalties on uncertified electrical workers.

Republicans, including Sen. John Campbell, R-Irvine, an original co-author who had his name removed last week, contend that the change will drive up installation costs as much as 30 percent. They say the change makes solar uneconomical - a program some critics have suggested is already more cost-prohibitive than conservation and other forms of alternative energy.