Wednesday, May 04, 2011From an article by Mike Ivey in The Capital Times:
Cuts to key environmental programs continue in Wisconsin, with a sharp reduction in future funding for Focus on Energy, a statewide energy efficiency effort.
On a party-line vote Tuesday, the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee rolled back the budget for Focus on Energy to less than $100 million annually. The monies come from a tax on electric utility revenues and are distributed to businesses and individuals for energy savings projects.
The Focus on Energy program has been administered over the past years by the Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corp., a Madison-based non-profit. But the contract was awarded earlier this year to the Shaw Group, a Baton Rouge, La., firm with offices in Milwaukee.
The Public Service Commission in November 2010 had proposed new energy savings goals for Focus on Energy by hiking the utility assessment. Those budgets were then approved by the Democratic majority in Joint Finance and would have upped money in the program from $120 million in 2011 to $256 million by 2014.
But with the committee action, funding for Focus on Energy will remain flat for the foreseeable future.
Co-chairman Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, led opposition to the increase, calling it a redistribution of utility ratepayer dollars.
Launched in 2001, Focus on Energy has helped residents and businesses save nearly $2 billion on their energy bills, supporters of the program say.