Bipartisan Deal to Save PACE
New changes to last year’s PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) law are being worked out to save the program from repeal.
Sponsored by Rep. Beatriz Pastor (D-Lyme), PACE became law last year, but hasn’t yet been used. A move to repeal it will be considered in an executive session in the House Municipal and County Government Committee today. But Pastor tells Front Door Politics that Republican committee leaders gave her a chance to change PACE in order to save it.
The PACE program allows cities and towns to finance residential and commercial energy efficiency and clean energy projects through municipal loans of up to $35,000. Each loan is to be paid back by the property owner who receives it, through increased tax payments for up to 20 years.
PACE supporters say the program meets a financing need banks and other forms of financing have yet to fill – and would help local taxpayers save significant amounts of money on their energy use. (See an earlier Daily Dispatch here for more explanation about the debate over PACE.)
Rep. Carol McGuire (R-Epsom) disagrees. She opposed the original PACE legislation, and told Front Door Politics in January that it was “not good public policy,” presented too much risk for local taxpayers, and “would benefit the few at the expense of everybody else.” McGuire sponsored this year’s PACE repeal bill, House Bill 144, which goes to executive session today.
The repeal bill was originally scheduled for a committee vote on Jan. 27, but Pastor says committee chair Rep. Beverly Ferrante (R-Derry) and vice-chair Rep. Franklin Sterling (R-Jaffrey) gave her time to address “the concerns the committee” had about the original legislation. Those concerns included
- the type of bonds that municipalities could use to set up the revolving loan funds to finance energy improvements
- how to establish a municipal “loss loan” program to protect municipalities against possible default by property owners who get the loans, and
- clarifying whose repayment would be prioritized (the municipality or a mortgage holder) in case of default
“We have proposed amendments to answer those concerns,” Pastor says. In particular, she says the issue of repayment precedence — which has been complicated by federal mortgage regulations — has been solved by only allowing residential applicants who no longer have mortgages to use the program (commercial property applicants fall under different guidelines).
“For communities who choose to go down this road, we have made it strong enough to get it started and to work in a narrow framework,” Pastor says. She adds that the process “has been truly bipartisan.”
That acknowledgement is brought into relief by an even bigger energy debate falling mainly along party lines. The House voted 246 to 104 Wednesday to repeal the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). House Bill 519 now goes to the House Finance Committee before crossing over to the Senate.
>> Thursday, Feb. 24, Municipal and County Government Committee, executive session on HB 144, Legislative Office Building, Room 301, 1 p.m.
This Daily Dispatch was written by Michael McCord, with contributions from Hilary Niles.