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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Rell Wrong On Green Building Credit - Courant.com

http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/editorials/hc-green-tax-credit.art.artjul19,0,5789354.story

Buildings use about 40 percent of the world's energy, by many accounts. The technology exists to reduce that number dramatically, even to build homes that use no external energy supplies. If the state can develop a green construction industry, it will be poised for a cleaner and stronger future.

Thus it was disappointing to see Gov. M. Jodi Rell veto the green building tax-credit bill that had passed overwhelmingly in both houses of the General Assembly. The bill would establish a $25 million tax credit for buildings that achieve a minimum gold rating in the LEED green building certification program. To qualify for the credit, the buildings must use no more than 70 percent of the energy allowed under the Connecticut energy code for new construction or 80 percent of the energy allowed for renovations.

Mrs. Rell said she agreed with the thrust of the program but that the state couldn't afford it, "given the continuing national recession."

That is far from clear. The tax credit does not kick in until 2012, when, presumably, the recession may have abated. Even if it continues, there is a strong argument that the cost of the tax credit will be offset by increases in sales and income tax revenues from green building construction projects. There are several major projects planned or underway — such as 300 State St. in New Haven and the South End project in Stamford — whose developers had hoped to take advantage of the tax credit.

These projects will help the state develop the green construction industry that the future — and probably federal law — will demand. Several states offer a green building tax credit. One is New York, where the credit has helped build such major residential projects as The Solaire in Battery Park City and The Octagon on Roosevelt Island.

Most construction, at least in normal times, is in the private-sector market. To make a real difference, these buildings need to be green. (Connecticut has a relative handful of green buildings, mostly on university or museum campuses.) Since conservation features add some cost, it is reasonable to offer fiscal incentives. The result will be worth it.

The General Assembly should override the veto.

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