Sen. Majority Whip Mimi Stewart’s bill to reinstate a solar tax credit passed its first committee Monday with a vote of 8-2. Stewart, D-Albuquerque, presented SB 29 to the Senate’s Corporations and Transportation Committee. “I hate to count how many times the committee’s actually heard [this bill],” Stewart joked with the committee. By our count, it’s the fifth time the bill has been introduced since the state solar tax credit expired in 2016. Stewart, who has been working on the bill with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, said the two of them agreed that “this needed to be a bill that incentivized folks to use solar.”
RELATED: Clean energy top of mind in 2020 legislative session
The legislation would create an income tax credit worth 10 percent of the cost of installation for solar thermal or solar photovoltaic systems for residential, business or agriculture applications.
One of the biggest winners in the just concluded 60-day session of the New Mexico Legislature was a man who never set foot in the Roundhouse and, in fact, never came close to crossing the state border. His name is Donald J. Trump, the president of the United States. Republican Trump lost New Mexico in November by 8 percentage points, and Democrats control both the state Senate and House of Representatives. Even so, several pieces of legislation aimed at Trump failed to get traction in the Legislature. Senate Bill 118, sponsored by Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, would have required presidential candidates to disclose five years of personal income taxes to get on the general election ballot in New Mexico.
Gov. Susana Martinez rejected a bill that would extend the Solar Market Development Tax Credit in the state—and supporters aren’t sure why. Martinez pocket vetoed the legislation, which means she did not sign the legislation before the deadline on action for bills passed in the final days of the legislative session. Unlike a regular veto, the 18 pieces of legislation that Martinez pocket vetoed do not come with an executive message that says why Martinez did not agree with the legislation. Groups that supported the solar tax credit extension do not know why the bill was pocket vetoed. “We’ve been asking and we haven’t heard a reason,” Sanders Moore, state director of Environment New Mexico, told New Mexico Political Report.
Successful bipartisan support for a bill to keep state tax credits for solar power installation in place until 2024 could bode well for final ratification by the governor. Sponsored by Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, SB 391 would prevent tax breaks enacted in 2006 from expiring in five years. The Solar Market Development Tax Credit now pays up to 10 percent of the cost for purchasing and installing solar photovoltaic or solar thermal systems. Stewart’s proposal will gradually phase that down to 5 percent.
According to the bill’s fiscal impact report, a growing number of New Mexicans claim solar tax credits mostly for new photovoltaic systems. The report also notes that in 2014, more than 1,000 residential-scale solar power systems added six megawatts to the power grid. A vocal minority of Republicans, some of whom work in the petroleum industry, opposed the measure. Rep. Larry Scott, R-Hobbs, argued Friday night that sun-generated energy would actually be cheaper without subsidies.