The on-going state budget challenge is forcing the legislature to grapple with tough challenges. It’s in many ways a no-win situation, but let’s not make it worse by returning to old spending habits instead of investing in new ideas that provide much better returns. Continuing investments in energy efficiency pay off and funding for DEEP is fundamental to keeping Connecticut a clean, healthy, beautiful place to live. But as a member of the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Green Bank (CGB), I can’t help but weigh in to remind the legislature that on the side of the spending ledger representing the future, the CGB is an idea that works.
Since its bipartisan inception in 2011, CGB has contributed to the state’s economy by creating clean energy jobs and helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, CGB attracted over $1 billion of investment in Connecticut’s economy.
CGB has been so successful that other states are looking to us for advice on how to begin their own, federal legislation is now under consideration to create a national green bank based on the Connecticut model, and Harvard University recently recognized CGB with its innovation in government award.
Connecticut Green Bank uses a variety of loan programs to help homeowners and commercial property owners invest in energy efficiency projects and clean energy solutions including insulation and solar which lower the energy burden on families and businesses. For every dollar the Green Bank invests in these projects, an average of eight dollars in private investment flows into the Connecticut economy. Simply put, CGB investments pay off for the people and businesses in this state.
At a time when policy makers in state government are seeking to diversify the state’s economy, CGB is actively growing an entire new sector based on the need to conserve energy and produce carbon free power. The emphasis on environmental returns is important, but just as important are the thousands of good paying jobs created by this state investment.
As the former commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and the former administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and someone who has worked for elected leaders from both major political parties, I know that now is not the time to disinvest in clean energy or to rollback other state and local efforts to address climate change by building a clean energy economy.
In the budget crisis of the moment, it is often easy for elected leaders to take the path of least resistance and reduce spending across the board. This is not the best approach and it is not what taxpayers are looking for when they ask us to run government budgets as we run our own household budgets.
What taxpayers would prefer is for government leaders to set priorities first and adjust spending accordingly. Programs that have become out of date or are not performing as they once did should receive less funding. Programs that align with current priorities – such as job creation and environmental protection – should receive additional support.
By all accounts, the Connecticut Green Bank has been a success during its first six years of operation. We should not reward this outstanding performance by reducing our investment in the program. If our priorities are job creation, lowering energy burden, reduction of greenhouse gases and reduced government spending then the Connecticut Green Bank checks all the boxes and deserves the full and continued support of state policy makers.
Gina McCarthy is former commissioner of the Connecticut DEP and administrator of the EPA in Washington, D.C. She is currently a member of the board of the Connecticut Green Bank a quasi-public state agency created by Gov. Dannel Malloy and the legislature in 2011.