A coalition of tea party groups is urging Gov. Rick Scott to veto the conservative Legislature's energy proposal, calling its revival of expired renewable energy tax credits "crony capitalism."
Scott received HB 7117, pushed by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in effort to start diversifying the state's energy sources, on March 30. He has until Friday to decide if it becomes law.
The tax incentives, meant to inspire increased renewable energy production to reduce dependence on natural gas, total $100 million over the next five years, the groups say. Speaking at a Tallahassee news conference Tuesday, Americans for Prosperity state director Slade O'Brien said coal and natural gas remain the cheapest sources of energy, so why give goodies to sectors that aren't competitive and will lead to increased energy bills?
"Please do not continue down the failed policy path of former Gov. Crist and President Obama by allowing this bad bill to become law," reads an April 5 letter signed by Americans for Prosperity and about 100 other tea party and 912 Project groups from around the state.
"How much in crony renewable handouts is enough?" said James Taylor, Heartland Institute senior fellow. "The stimulus has already provided $17 billion in taxpayer handouts to the renewable power industry."
Putnam responded to tea party criticism of his ideas last week, calling their concerns "rooted in a lack of good information."
"The tea party ought to be thrilled with the repeal of the RPS (renewable portfolio standard), and the changes that we made to the renewable fuel standard that makes clear that it is perfectly legal in the state of Florida to sell unblended fuel," he told reporters Wednesday.
Putnam said the credits are "technology agnostic" that rely on the marketplace, contrary to the groups' position that the government is choosing winners and losers.
"We're saying if you spend real capital, and put real bricks and mortar in the ground, and hire people, and are actually producing renewable fuel or electricity, then you are eligible for a tax credit," he said. "It is not an upfront subsidy to help you get there."
The bill earned just four nays -- all from Republicans -- on final passage in the House and Senate: Sens. Joe Negron and Alan Hays, and Reps. Eric Eisnaugle and Marlene O'Toole.
Victoria Jackson of Miami was one of a dozen local tea party activists who attended the news conference. Gripping her copy of Republican U.S. Sen. James Inhofe's book "The Greatest Hoax," she suggested the bill would be supported by a variety of tea party targets, including "the Occupiers, Valerie Jarrett, Van Jones, Obama, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, communists, fascists, socialists" and the United Nations.
"Government, get out of our lives!" she said.