June 20, 2005

Lifton replies on NYSERDA

Back in April, I sent a letter to Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, a letter to Senator Jim Seward, and a letter to Governor George Pataki about the State Legislature's apparent grab for the NYSERDA piggybank. While the legislature enjoyed talking about the need for oversight, it felt like the legislature was more interested in bringing the Systems Benefit Charge on to its own ledger rather than leaving it devoted to energy programs.

I still haven't heard from Senator Seward or Governor Pataki (though Pataki vetoed the legislature's effort to put the money under their control), but I did hear back from Assemblywoman Lifton today. I've scanned her reply and posted both the original letter (192KB PDF) and the selectable version (262KB PDF).

It doesn't start very promisingly, from my perspective:

The "systems benefit charge," which currently funds these programs, is generated from a charge on our utility bills, making it a de facto tax on the people of New York. The legislature maintains that, like other taxes, it should be subject to appropriation in the state budget, with oversight by the Comptroller, as our State Constitution requires.

Although she goes on to claim that "Moving the non-appropriated money for NYSERDA into the budget process is not a threat to NYSERDA’s good work," the first few sentences of this paragraph remind me of a warning that Assemblywoman Lifton herself gave at her 2004 Town Hall: that money from the state lottery, whatever the advertising may say, isn't dedicated to education: it goes into the state's general fund like everything else. Once there, it's subject to negotiation like everything else.

Lifton criticizes the history of NYSERDA, and specifically the creation of the system benefit charge, but I have to admit that this is a tax I'm proud to pay. Dedicating money to energy efficiency is something we need to do a lot more of. Her letter goes on to criticize the many scandals in New York's authorities, but I can't say I've heard her complaining about those same authorities providing millions of dollars in convenient cash for slush funds run by the Assembly and Senate leadership - in fact, I'd say she's dodged the issue when I've raised it.

Yes, I'm unhappy that NYSERDA ran an ad with Governor Pataki in it, and I'd be happy to see authorities banned from creating advertisements which include elected officials of any kind. That doesn't mean I support putting NYSERDA in with the rest of the budget.

Oh well. At least she replied, which is more than I can say for Governor Pataki or Senator Seward. In the past, Seward's been very quick to reply to letters to his office, but perhaps he just doesn't want to talk about this issue.

Posted by simon at June 20, 2005 9:13 PM in ,
Note on photos