Solar tax credit bill returns to House

The Louisiana Senate on Monday revamped, then approved, legislation that would reduce Louisiana’s solar energy tax break for some.

The Senate voted 39-0 for the House-passed measure. House Bill 705 returns to the House for concurrence in Senate alterations that would reduce the tax credit for people who lease the solar equipment from 50 percent to 38 percent beginning in January, allow the tax credit for larger solar arrays, and preclude the use of solar equipment manufactured in specified nations after July 1.

The cost of installing solar equipment to reduce the monthly electricity bill for a home or business is fairly expensive, even with state and federal tax breaks that credit the purchase and installation up to 80 percent of the costs in some cases. Leasing allows people with lower income to take advantage of the lower utility bills by allowing them to lease the solar arrays installed on their buildings.

Most of the Senate floor debate surrounded compliance with a bill provision that would ban use of products made in China in the solar systems.

State Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, said businesses that have the banned products in stock would have until Jan. 1 to install the equipment.

“I’m trying to protect the small businessman, who has extended his credit and bought some of this stuff to extend the time to do what they would be allowed to do under current law,” Martiny said.

Martiny’s comment brought applause from solar industry businessmen monitoring the Senate debate from the galleries. Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, cautioned the spectators to refrain from outbursts.

State Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, who handled HB705 on the Senate floor, objected.

“This happens to be a credit that is an 80 percent (taxpayer) subsidized credit,” Adley said. “Everybody in this room would be successful if you can get the government to pay 80 percent of whatever you do.”

Adley said the businesses should be required to buy American.

State Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, said the Chinese products pose safety risks according to news reports. She said she did not want Louisiana residents exposed to those risks.

State Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, said businesses should be given until Jan. 1 to close out their inventory “so their businesses don’t go out of business and American workers lose their jobs.”

The Senate voted 27-12 for the extension.

But later the Senate without objection approved a Dorsey-Colomb amendment that would require the companies to prove they had the banned product in stock on July 1.

Tom Neyhart, CEO and co-founder of PosiGen Solar Solutions, said in a prepared statement: “Today was a huge win for Louisiana families and their fight to have cost-effective energy. Without the lease option in place, very few middle- and low-income families would have been able to afford solar energy in Louisiana.”