SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The last thing lawmakers did as they passed California's $108 billion general fund budget this week was take up a mysterious tax break for the solar industry.
SB871, which extends a property tax for solar credits through 2024, was never heard by a regular policy committee and the public had little chance to provide input before the Democratic Legislature rammed it through last weekend.
The current tax benefit is not even set to expire, or "sunset," until 2017.
Several lawmakers from both parties criticized the process, and a coalition representing other alternative energy industries called Wednesday for Gov. Jerry Brown to veto the extension when he signs the rest of the budget in coming days.
"We're taking it up 2 ½ years before it expires," said Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, as lawmakers approved the measure Sunday night. "Now, I enjoy a good sunset, but we're like at noon here. So, for that reason alone, I'm going to vote no."
The measure first surfaced when it was briefly mentioned as lawmakers met last week to negotiate the details of the main budget bills.
Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata, was among the critics when it reappeared as lawmakers' last order of business in passing the budget.
"I think it needs to be decided through a public and transparent process where members had a chance to have those arguments played out," said Chesbro, who was among five Assembly Democrats who voted against the bill. Despite their opposition, it passed and was sent to the Democratic governor with wide bipartisan support.
The proposal did not come from Brown's administration, but the administration supported the extension, said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the Department of Finance.
Legislators said the measure wasn't theirs, either, until Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, acknowledged ownership Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press.