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Lynch vetoes high-interest short term loans and bill to end NH participation in RGGI

By TOM FAHEY
State House Bureau Chief

July 06. 2011 1:21PM

CONCORD - Gov. John Lynch vetoed two bills Wednesday that would have brought back high-interest short terms loans, and would have ended the state's participation in a greenhouse gas reduction program.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is a market-based cap and trade program to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in the Northeast. New Hampshire joined the program in 2009, and was the tenth and last state in the Northeast to do so.

Under RGGI, utilities bid on emissions permits at auctions every three months. Funds from the auction are distributed to the member states to be used for a variety of energy efficiency programs.

New Hampshire gets roughly $12 million annually from RGGI. The cost to consumers is about 35 cents a month on the average bill. Most of that money would be paid to regional power providers even without RGGI.

Lynch said he vetoed the repeal in SB 154, 'because it will cost our citizens jobs, both now and into the future, hinder our economic recovery, and damage our state's long-term economic competitiveness.'

Lynch noted that the program has produced benefits on energy use.

'This bill would have ended those energy efficiency efforts - eliminating jobs today and eliminating efforts to help businesses and families cut their energy use. Given that energy is a major cost factor for businesses, ending our energy efficiency programs would also hurt our efforts to bring new companies and jobs to New Hampshire,' he said.

In vetoing the car title lending bill, SB 57, Lynch said that title loans would equal 300 percent annually, compared to a maximum 36 percent a year under a bill enacted in 2008. No other New England state allows the loans.

He said local welfare officials said the temporary relief of a car title loan, 'often comes at the cost of enslaving recipients in a cycle of increasing debt for basic needs.' Families can end up worse off than they were before the loan, in which a car is used as collateral, Lynch noted.

Republicans in the House made repeal of the RGGI program one of their priorities for this legislative session. They argue that it serves as a tax on electricity and hurts the state's economy.

The House passed a repeal bill, but the Senate changed the bill to reduce the scope of the program, not eliminate it. The House refused to go along with that approach and put the repeal onto SB 154, an update of the state's laws on shoreland development. The shoreland update became law because it was made part of the state's new budget bill, which took effect July 1.

There are clearly enough votes in the House to override the Lynch veto, which would require a two-thirds majority. However, the votes needed to force a RGGI repeal have never been there in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, pushed for compromise on House members in June, arguing that the program is poorly run, allocating RGGI energy funds to large companies that don't need the money. He said it would be better to have a smaller program in place than the one that now exists.

House members rejected the Senate idea, under pressure from Speaker of the House William O'Brien and Republican leadership.


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