Last year, the Solar and Wind Rebate Program was extended until 2015 with bipartisan support. Because of an oversight, a later bill accidentally rescinded this extension.

The program is funded by a surcharge on electricity bills that amounts to less than $1 per household annually.

L.D. 761 was introduced to continue this successful program.

For every $1 of rebate money awarded, $10 of private investment was pumped into Maine’s economy. This money supports plumbers, electricians, engineers, supply houses and other small businesses that are the backbone of this state.

A majority of these rebates supported cost-effective solar projects that reduce Maine’s oil dependence and lend support across the state’s economic spectrum — from teachers to doctors to farmers to retirees.

Thanks in part to the rebate program, solar installations increased by 80 percent last year.

A recent study estimated job growth of 30 percent in Maine’s solar industry for 2011.

Enter Gov. Paul LePage.

In his attempt to woo large businesses from away that will save us from our economic woes, LePage vowed to cut any program that will keep him from cutting electricity prices — even if it means turning his back on small businesses showing significant success amidst a dismal economy.

His veto threat of L.D. 761 leaves the Legislature and solar industry scrambling for alternatives. Rather than continue the model that has been successful in Maine and across the country, the state must reinvent the wheel. The only alternative is funding from inconsistent sources, which many industry leaders argue is worse than simply ending the program.

LePage has pledged to “get government out of the way and allow Maine’s small businesses to create jobs.” Leaders convert rhetoric to action. Is LePage a leader, or are small businesses just another group of “idiots” that disagree with him?

Vaughan Woodruff