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Veto battle over surcharges looms

ALBANY -- One of the first veto battles of this year's legislative session may start today as observers predict Gov. George Pataki will nix a proposal to shift control of some $200 million worth of utility surcharges from a state agency to the Legislature.

The looming fight over who controls money from the System Benefit Charge and Renewable Portfolio Standard fees that consumers pay on their electric bills also has created a rift among Democrats in the Assembly and Senate.

"This has become a kind of political football," said Katherine Kennedy, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, which favors keeping the money in the governor's hands. The money goes for energy-efficiency projects and alternative energy projects such as wind turbines. It's currently administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Lawmakers, led by Assembly Democrats, have long complained they have no say in how the money is spent. This year, they passed a law that would fold the money into the state's general fund.

Pataki blocked a similar move in 2005, but this year the dynamics are different. With Pataki not seeking re-election, lawmakers of both parties and in both houses may be emboldened to override the governor's vetoes, since they want to bring funding home to their districts.

"We've gotten signals that because the governor is leaving, there is more appetite for an override attempt," Kennedy said.

On the other hand, Senate... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
The looming fight over who controls money from the System Benefit Charge and Renewable Portfolio Standard fees that consumers pay on their electric bills also has created a rift among Democrats in the Assembly and Senate.

"This has become a kind of political football," said Katherine Kennedy, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, which favors keeping the money in the governor's hands. The money goes for energy-efficiency projects and alternative energy projects such as wind turbines. It's currently administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Lawmakers, led by Assembly Democrats, have long complained they have no say in how the money is spent. This year, they passed a law that would fold the money into the state's general fund.

Pataki blocked a similar move in 2005, but this year the dynamics are different. With Pataki not seeking re-election, lawmakers of both parties and in both houses may be emboldened to override the governor's vetoes, since they want to bring funding home to their districts.

"We've gotten signals that because the governor is leaving, there is more appetite for an override attempt," Kennedy said.

On the other hand, Senate Minority Leader David Paterson, D-Manhattan, who is running for lieutenant governor with Eliot Spitzer, opposes shifting the money to the general fund. Some have suggested that's because Paterson next year could be in the executive branch that currently controls the fund. Regardless, he seems to have support from other Senate Democrats, which would leave the Senate unable to muster the two-thirds vote needed for an override. Among those backing Paterson is state Sen. Neil Breslin, D-Albany.

Environmentalists like Kennedy say they want the energy money to stay with NYSERDA, where they say it's protected from the vagaries of the budget process.

Not everyone is convinced of that, however.

Putting the money in the hands of lawmakers could lead to more accountability, says Daniel Mackay Paul, director of public policy for the Preservation League of New York State, which works in historic preservation.

Members of his group have battled NYSERDA over the siting of wind turbines in areas they believe are of historic significance or scenic value, such as the Otsego County community of Cherry Valley. Residents have been split over a plan to build turbines on the hillsides there.

Rick Karlin can be reached at 454-5758 or by e-mail at rkarlin@timesunion.com.


Source: http://timesunion.com/AspSt...

APR 10 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/2100-veto-battle-over-surcharges-looms
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