ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Facing a likely veto override on a bill to boost Maryland's renewable energy use, Gov. Larry Hogan outlined a package of environmental proposals of his own on Tuesday for the upcoming legislative session.
Hogan, a Republican, said the initiatives added up to nearly $65 million in investments to grow jobs in green industries and protect the environment.
In addition to four initiatives in the governor's package, Hogan said about $41 million will be invested in renewable energy projects through the Strategic Energy Investment Fund as part of $44 million Exelon Corp. agreed to pay the state in its merger agreement.
"This marks a significant investment in workforce training and green jobs," Hogan said.
Here's a look at the governor's four initiatives:
—A $3 million investment in Maryland's EARN Program would train workers for jobs in solar, wind, hydroelectric and other green industries.
—The Clean Cars Act of 2017 would increase the investment in the electric vehicle tax credit program by more than 30 percent and double the charging station rebate.
—The Green Energy Institute would be formed with $7.5 million in a collaboration between the University of Maryland Energy Research Center and the Maryland Clean Energy Center to attract private investment and commercialize clean energy innovations.
—The Clean Water Commerce Act would allow up to $10 million of the Bay Restoration Fund to be used to buy nutrient reduction credits.
The governor defended his decision last year to veto a measure passed by the Democrat-controlled legislature to increase the amount of energy Maryland gets from renewable sources like solar power to 25 percent by 2020, up from 20 percent by 2022 — a bill he described as a "sunshine and wind tax" on electricity bills.
"It's charging people every month on their bill to force people to buy expensive solar and wind energy," Hogan said at a news conference. "We don't need this bill to pass. We've already made tremendous improvements. We're already better than most places. The things we talked about today help accomplish those goals without charging Marylanders, and I'm just opposed to the sunshine and wind tax."
The legislation passed the General Assembly by veto-proof margins, and lawmakers could override Hogan's veto when they return this month for their annual 90-day session, which starts next week.
Sen. Brian Feldman, a Montgomery County Democrat who sponsored the bill, noted that Hogan didn't take a position on the legislation during hearings in the last session. He also pointed out that Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich signed the state's first renewable portfolio standards bill into law during his administration, when there wasn't as much data on the potential for the solar industry.
"To me, it's a wise investment in the future of our state, both in terms of economic development and the environment," Feldman said.