A grass-roots only political strategy appears to be working as supporters await the fate of Amendment 4, the Florida Legislature’s tax-cutting plan for promoting solar energy.
One of the biggest problems with the Sunshine State is that it’s not --at least not when it comes to turning all that sunshine into electricity. Florida has the potential to be the third-largest solar generator, but it ranks 13th among the states.
Amendment 4 is designed to fix that.
Simply put, Amendment 4 would cut property and equipment taxes to encourage more businesses and homeowners to switch to solar power. The idea is such a no-brainer, Democrats and Republicans in the Florida Legislature had no problem putting it on the ballot.
More than 200 business and environmental groups are behind Amendment 4, so supporters didn’t bother paying for an expensive TV campaign. The grass roots strategy is working, says St. Leo University pollster Frank Orlando.
“Amendment 4, which provides property tax exemptions for renewable energy devices, is succeeding, with about 68.8 percent of likely voters in the August primary.”
Amendment 4 does even better, 70 percent, in the latest Florida Chamber of Commerce poll. That’s comfortably above the 60 percent threshold for passing. But Moncreif isn’t popping the Champagne corks just yet.
Lawmakers put Amendment 4 on the August 30 primary ballot to avoid confusion with another campaign, and Moncreif says that’s a problem. Florida is a closed primary state, but anyone can vote on the amendment.
“We’ve had a lot of people ask, well, you know, I’m not registered as a Democrat or a Republican, can I still vote in the primary? Because people think it’s a party thing.”
The “Yes on 4” website added a tool last week that helps people find their early voting sites. Moncreif says supporters hope it will fix the problem.
“You know, if every voter in Florida who supports solar showed up at the polls and cast their vote before August 30 and cast their vote in favor of Amendment 4, it would be a huge landslide of a victory.”
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s Susan Glickman says Amendment 4 sells itself because it blends environmental protection with economic growth.
“The solar industry is creating jobs at 12 times the rate of the national average and one in 83 jobs is in the solar industry.”
But Amendment 4 supporters worry voters could get confused. The utilities are backing another solar initiative on the November ballot, one Amendment 4 backers oppose.
Amendment 1 guarantees the right to own solar equipment. Critics say it’s a Trojan horse that would sock solar users with higher utility rates. Glickman says Amendment 4 supporters are waiting before launching their Amendment 1 attack.
“We’re going to put out attention on next Tuesday, on August 30, where voters will have a chance to reduce costs on solar, and then we will put our attention to the other initiative.”
Even a landslide victory won’t seal the fate of Amendment 4. Lawmakers will have until 2018 to work out the details of the tax cuts.