Tax Dollars Hard at Work
What do you do with a subsidy program that isn’t needed and not producing anticipated results? If you are the state of Connecticut, you grow the program.
As of June 28, the state has started issuing rebate vouchers — up to $1,500 — to residents for the purchase of electric bicycles through the Connecticut Hydrogen and Electric Automobile Purchase Rebate (CHEAPR) incentive program.
Launched in 2015, Gov. Dannel Malloy created CHEAPR outside the typical legislative process using $1 million paid by Northeast Utilities and NSTAR (now Eversource Energy) as a condition of approving their merger. The rebates, up to $3,000 for vehicles with sticker prices up to $60,000, would “provide an added incentive for consumers to embrace new approaches and help lead the way to a more sustainable future,” Malloy said.
Malloy in 2017 added another $2 million, collected the same way when the state signed off on the merger that formed Avangrid.
In 2019, Gov. Ned Lamont signed a bill giving CHEAPR the first $3 million collected from state drivers paying the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fee (GHG) added to vehicle registration costs, the remainder going to the General Fund. Since 2020, CHEAPR has been managed by a 12-member board that sets the amount and eligibility rules. The program originally offered rebates up to $3,000 toward buying or leasing a new electric vehicle. The rebates have since been increased to up to $9,500, depending on the vehicle type, for new or used vehicles.
Then in 2022 Gov. Lamont signed the Connecticut Clean Air Act which changed the funding structure and allocated 100 percent of the GHG to the rebate program. Beginning fiscal year 2024, every dollar over $5.2 million collected from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) will be diverted to the CHEAPR account. It also expanded the rebate program to include eBikes.
The bill also eliminated the December 2025 sunset date and increases the MSRP maximum for vehicle eligibility from $42,000 to $50,000. It also gave the administration power to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) commissioner to allocate, distribute and use CHEAPR funds. The commissioner is required to prioritize granting rebates for $50,000 cars to residents of environmental justice communities and those having household incomes at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty level and who participate in certain welfare programs.
The state is doing its best Oprah impression by handing out free stuff, and wasting its time. Surveys conducted in 2021 and 2022 by DEEP show that more than half would have purchased the vehicle even without a rebate. This raises the question of why Gov. Lamont recently signed legislation eliminating the five-year sunset clause, while increasing funding for the program.
The survey’s were sent to individuals who participated in the state’s CHEAPR program between June 2020-2021 and July 2021- 2022, and covered topics including demographics, motivations, and the importance of the CHEAPR rebate.
Expect to see the same reaction to the bike welfare program. Denver Colo., recently cut the value of eBike vouchers to expand the amount of vouchers being offered. However, demand was unaffected. Put another way the impact of the subsidy on consumer demand was rather unresponsive to changes in its value. So, if reducing the subsidy didn’t have the desired cooling effect on purchases, one might wonder whether completely eliminating the voucher would yield a similarly lackluster outcome.
According to a June 28 press release, DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said, “As one of the first state-wide eBike incentive programs in the country, we will be providing additional electrified transportation options for those who may not be able to afford a car, let alone an electric vehicle.” (What she fails to explain is if eBikes are a substitute for gas-powered vehicles, there is no need to subsidize them because they are already much cheaper.)
In the same press release, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker stated, “Electric bikes are a great option for residents who are looking for a fun, efficient, greener and healthier way to get around the city.” Let us ponder this for a moment, since when does something being fun justify squandering hard-earned taxpayer dollars?
It’s nice the government is saying the quiet part out loud. The real goal is to get as many automobiles off the road as possible and environmentalists agree.
UCONN Assistant Professor-in-Residence Dr. Mary Donegan, at the 2021 Northeast Multimodal Transit Summit, stated that “having hundreds of millions of EV’s on the road is not the goal, and that we want to push folks towards biking, walking, transit and of course with EV’s as a rare but essential aspect of transportation.”
During public comments at the September 2021 CHEAPR board meeting Gannon Long, Policy and Public Affairs Director of Operation Fuel, pointed out “in addition to just replacing the cars on the road [with EV’s], it’s really important that we actually reduce the number of cars on the road. Department of Transportation should be planning on fewer vehicle miles traveled, not more.” She wanted to know “how would emissions change if you actually took cars off the road, not just replacing them with different cars, but taking them off the road.”
CHEAPR has paid out $17,574,750 on 10,234 rebates between May 19, 2015, and June 14, 2023, with almost 20 percent redeemed by the top 25 wealthiest zip codes and 68 percent of the vouchers going to those having an annual household income of $100,000.
Teachers, It’s Opt-Out Seasons: Break Free from the Union Shackles
Timing is everything if you happen to be a dissatisfied member of the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) and have a burning desire to part ways. Teachers who are questioning the value and relevance of union membership have their once-a-year chance to leave during the month of August.
CEA members, not happy with how their dues (roughly $900 a year) are being spent, can join the ranks of tens of thousands of educators who chose to bid farewell to their union memberships — the catch is it can only be done in August.
The decision on whether to cancel union membership is highly personal. Some make the decision to leave the CEA when they realize that 82 percent of expenditures went towards the union’s own employee salaries, compensation and benefits.
In the midst of teacher salary frustrations, it has come to light that over half of CEA employees enjoy annual incomes exceeding $100,000 annually. Startling figures released by Americans for Fair Treatment reveal that the top 12 earners within the organization earned an average of $287,110 in 2019, with an impressive seven individuals surpassing the $300,000 mark (data sourced from the 2019 Form 990).
Political beliefs have also become a prominent factor influencing teachers’ decisions regarding their union affiliation. Educators have become fed up with their classrooms being turned into political battlegrounds and they feel that unions have become overly partisan, pushing agendas that contradict their own values. They are finding it difficult to reconcile their beliefs with their union membership and no longer want to fund issues that they do not support.
CEA — an affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA) — sent 90 delegates to NEA’s Representative Assembly on July 3. During the weeklong event in Orlando, Fla., delegates voted on nearly 100 new business items (NBI).
Most NBIs are hidden behind a firewall but CEA shared some on their website. Among the key NBI adopted at the conference are the need for access to gender-affirming care, expanding partnerships and grant opportunities for educator-led professional development (particularly in areas of using pronouns), and developing a strategic program to help Republican members advance a pro-public education agenda within the Republican Party.
In previous years, NEA passed NBIs opposing attempts to ban critical race theory, while supporting critiques on capitalism — which they refer to as a form of “power and oppression”.
If this bothers you or someone you know, opting out of CEA is easy. Simply fill out this form letter and mail — via certified mail/return receipt/delivery confirmation — to CEA, Capitol Place, Suite 500, 21 Oak St., Hartford, CT 06106. It is also recommended sending the same letter to your local union and your school district’s HR/payroll department.
This Week on Yankee’s Podcast Y CT Matters
It has been five years since the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME, where the Court held it violated the First Amendment for unions to compel government workers to subsidize them. But what led to the case? What were its consequences? What was it like to argue before the Justices? Bill Messenger — vice president and legal director for National Right to Work and one of the nation’s foremost labor advocates — represented plaintiff Mark Janus. He shares his insights and his thoughts about the “next frontier” in the fight to protect free speech against politicized unions.
Click HERE to listen