The Assembly just passed legislation 105-1 that would extend the Power for Jobs and Energy Cost Savings Benefit programs through May 15, 2011. The only problem is there’s no identical bill in the Senate, and lawmakers are preparing to finish up the budget and other business and then leave Albany. The Senate and Gov. David Paterson’s administration agreed weeks ago on a plan that would put a permanent program in place, but the Assembly disagrees with it.
The two low-cost power programs, which primarily serve businesses and non-profits, have been extended annually in recent years while legislators and the governor’s administration have attempted to create a permanent replacement for them.
Talks broke down, and the programs expired early this month. The main sticking point is the Assembly wants to preserve a hydro-power benefit for upstate rural and farm customers, while the governor’s administration and Assembly Democrats want to take the bulk of the existing benefits and put them toward economic-development efforts.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, recently proposed convening a conference committee between the Senate and Assembly to hash out differences, but the Assembly received no response, Assembly Energy Committee Chairman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, said on the floor this afternoon. Paterson has said he is not interested in another temporary-extender bill this year.
Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito, D-Rome, Oneida County, said businesses and manufacturers and constituents who work in those manufacturing and commercial-sector jobs need an energy program now “and I don’t believe that we can wait until the next governor.” Paterson is not running for election this November.
Morgan Hook, a Paterson spokesman, said today that the administration agrees with a statement Silver said in May 29: “Businesses need certainty. I would ask that we allow time in the next session to put a permanent or multi-year solution in place … we tend to do extenders rather than come up with creative ways to give the business community of this state more certainty as to what the future will look like.”
“We have created exactly what the Speaker called for on May 27, 2009, and that is a permanent, self-sustaining low-cost power program that will retain and create hundreds of thousands of jobs and give the business community certainty,” Hook said. “The Senate passed this bill 59-2, and editorial boards, chambers of commerce and business groups from every region of the state support our plan. This is the bill the Assembly should vote on, not another extender.”