Tax break on solar installation hits roadblock at Capitol

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Nearly three out of four Florida voters agreed to give businesses that install solar power a tax break, but that break is hitting a roadblock at the state Capitol.

The idea seems simple enough, and 72 percent of voters said yes to it last August.

But language in the amendment states the tax break is subject to limitations provided by general law, and that’s where it gets sticky, because lawmakers are at odds over what limitations might apply.

Items being negotiated include:

  • Not allowing a break for solar installed before the end of 2017.
  • Only allowing 80 percent of the value to be eligible for a tax break.
  • Setting up a new regulatory scheme for installers.

“On the House side, Rep. Ray Rodrigues has filed HB 1351 and, unfortunately, it creates duplicative and needless barriers, really, regulations on small businesses in the state of Florida,” said Susan Glickman, with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Senate sponsor Jeff Brandes said he likes the idea of letting cities and counties earn some revenue from solar, but otherwise, he prefers a bill free of regulation.

“I think, ultimately, consumers and their solar contractors are adults,” Brandes said. “They can decide if they want to enter into contracts. They don’t need the state getting involved in their contracts.”

House sponsor Ray Rodrigues did not respond to a request for an interview.

If lawmakers don’t agree, the will of the voters will be stymied for at least a year.

In 2008, voters passed the same language for homeowners, and it took lawmakers five years to implement the changes. But Glickman thinks 2017 will be different.

“I think support for solar and interest in solar is at much higher levels, so I don’t think we're going to have to wait,” Glickman said.

The legislation is expected to reduce local tax revenues by as much as $54 million a year.

 

The exemption for solar would expire at the end of 2037.

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