CONTRIBUTORS

Governor’s bill calls for accountability of Efficiency Maine Trust

Posted March 28, 2012, at 3:28 p.m.

The BDN’s March 19 editorial, “Hands off Efficiency Maine, governor,” missed the mark on what was actually proposed in the governor’s energy bill. Rather placing Efficiency Maine “under the oversight of the governor’s office” as BDN asserted, the legislation would change language so the Efficiency Maine Trust is consistent with other quasi-state agencies. If this bill is passed, the annual budget of the Efficiency Maine Trust would be reviewed and approved by the Legislature, the same as other quasi-state agencies.

With millions of dollars of public funds to administer, the Efficiency Maine Trust should be held to the same standards as other agencies. Effective and efficient oversight is the responsibility of the Legislature. Lawmakers need to know and have a say in how public dollars are spent.

The Efficiency Maine Trust was established for the purposes of developing, planning, coordinating and implementing energy efficiency and alternative energy resources programs in the state. However, the Efficiency Maine Trust, with $88 million in public monies, is not held accountable by the same method as other agencies.

Unlike what was suggested in recent editorial, the Maine Public Utilities Commission does not oversee the financial budget or approve fees-taxes of the Efficiency Maine Trust. The Legislature has provided the oversight in the past and should continue to do so in the future.

Contrary to BDN’s assertion that the trust is run “for mere pocket change on electric bills,” Efficiency Maine will use over $80 million of ratepayer and taxpayer money to administer programs this year. Gov. LePage is dedicated to bringing accountability and transparency to Maine’s government, ending years of irresponsible spending of Mainer’s taxpayer dollars. It is not too much to ask, considering recent stories on highly questionable spending of public money, to bring accountability and transparency to Maine’s quasi-state agencies.

The stories of careless spending by these agencies have become all too familiar. Gift cards and massages are not efficient or appropriate uses of Mainers’ hard-earned money. Maine people deserve better.

Gov. LePage has shown a commitment to expand energy efficiency efforts, allowing Mainers to take control of their energy futures. Gov. LePage knows that Maine needs to lower its energy costs so our businesses can prosper and create jobs for Maine people.

Maine consumers have shown widespread support for using the programs of the Efficiency Maine Trust to improve energy efficiency. In fact, the governor’s energy legislation expands the existing voluntary contribution program of the Renewable Energy Fund, allowing individuals and businesses to be able to contribute to fund the energy efficiency investments.

Much like the federal government, Maine has limited resources. Gov. LePage is making tough decisions to put Maine back on a pathway to prosperity. Maine people should be assured that every tax and ratepayer dollar is being used responsibly, which is what this bill does.

The governor’s legislation is simply instilling measures to make sure the Efficiency Maine Trust is held accountable to Maine people. Asking for an agency to be held accountable by elected officials is not “clamping the mantle of politics on an agency” as the BDN erroneously concluded. It is showing leadership, and assuring the Maine people that their hard-earned dollars are not padding the pockets of bureaucrats and special interest groups in Augusta.

The Efficiency Maine Trust should not be exempt from being held accountable by elected officials. Maine people deserve the right to know that public servants are spending their money responsibly, especially when the budget of the Efficiency Maine Trust is $88 million dollars.

Gov. LePage’s energy legislation includes pro-job creation proposals, increases transparency for Maine ratepayers and makes fiscally responsible reforms to one of Maine’s agencies.

Energy conservation is an important goal, and one that Gov. LePage supports. However, we must make sure that the use of ratepayer and taxpayer dollars for energy efficiency is responsible, transparent and cost-effective.

Ken Fletcher is director of the Governor’s Office of Energy Independence and Security.

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