Email Newsom about state taxes on student debt relief and vetoing a bill that hurts our solar industry.

Action #1: Hey, did you know that CA is one of a handful of states that might tax those who receive student debt relief?

While the American Rescue Plan prevents President Biden’s $10k student debt relief from being considered taxable income on federal tax returns until 2025, borrowers in seven states may have to pay state income tax on it, including CA residents.

Contact: Governor Gavin Newsom: email

Minimal script: Dear Governor Newsom, I was surprised to learn that our state was one of only seven that might tax Biden’s student debt relief as additional income. Most people who’ll qualify to have their debts forgiven are low income and many have struggled for decades to make their monthly payments. They shouldn’t have to worry about paying state taxes on the amount that’s forgiven. Please publicly announce that California, which is working to keep college costs down and to increase state financial aid for students, will exempt them from this additional financial burden.

Action #2: The CA legislative session closed on Aug. 31. Now we need to play mop-up and ask Newsom to veto solar-killing bill AB 2143.

Good news first!

  • We killed SB 396 which would have allowed PG&E to cut almost any tree anywhere with no recourse and no oversight, a wasteful and ineffective method to stop wildfires.
  • We killed AB 2667, which would have harmed microgrids we need for resilience and safety in wildfires and blackouts.
  • We killed SB 1385, which would have been a PG&E scam undermining successful solar on multi-family housing programs.
  • We got the Governor to pull out the solar tax in his Diablo bill that did pass and we still need to work to stop, but we stopped the solar tax, for now. 

Now, the issue...

AB 2143, which is heading to Newsom’s desk, is another utility company-led rooftop solar-killing bill, this time mascarading as a “prevailing wage” protector, just as Prop. 22 gutted gig-worker benefits under the guise of “worker flexibility.” It requires that private building projects greater than 15 kW and 3 stories or above be magically re-classified as “public works,” imposing requirements intended to crush the small businesses that install these projects by saddling them with 25% higher costs, debilitating bureaucracy and draconian penalties for contractor error. Seriously, WTH? We need Governor Newsom to veto it. (See our earlier post on this bill here.)

Contact: Governor Gavin Newsom: email

Sample script: Make it sound like you!

Dear Governor Newsom,

Please veto AB 2143. Many of us are struggling to work and live comfortably through this heat wave and thousands are once again dealing with a devastating fire. Climate change is a reality your constituents confront daily and we expect you to do everything possible to combat it and improve our resiliency. However, by arbitrarily designating privately-funded solar projects as “public works,” with all the added expense and bureaucracy that requires, AB 2143 smells corrupt as hell, threatens to take us backwards, and we wonder how in the world it even got to your desk.

The ones who will pay for this shameful legislation include union contractors, worker-owned solar cooperatives, women-owned, BIPOC-owned, and veteran-owned small businesses and the tens of thousands of workers who rely on these well-paying careers. Like our infamous Prop. 22, AB 2143 hurts the very people it claims to try to help, and we’re done with this. Please veto this deceitful bill.

Want some other talking points? Here are a few examples of how AB 2143 will move California backwards:

  • AB 2143 would slow down California’s clean energy goals. California needs at least three times more solar than we have today, and we need it as quickly as possible. California also needs five times more sun-charged batteries, as quickly as possible. AB 2143 would increase costs and slow down the adoption of solar power and energy storage, especially in low- and middle-income neighborhoods where solar is currently growing at the fastest rate.
  • AB 2143 would increase use of fossil fuels. Californians are seeking relief from ongoing blackouts and power shutoff events. Many are turning to polluting fossil fuel generators. California should be encouraging consumers to invest in solar and batteries instead. Making these clean air technologies more expensive creates an uneven playing field and will likely result in more use of fossil fuels which will, in turn, exacerbate grid reliability problems further.
  • AB 2143 is unsound.  Why would the state of California consider independent, behind-the-meter solar projects contracted by and for individual consumers “public works projects?” The solar systems are not funded by taxpayers, like a road or a bridge, but rather are the result of private investments in on-site renewable energy. The Net Metering tariff, per Public Utilities Code 2827.1, is not a subsidy program. There are no state taxpayer dollars exchanged when a homeowner or business applies for interconnection to the utility with a net metered solar system.
  • AB 2143 would create unnecessary red tape. Most solar installers do not have teams of lawyers to sort through California’s byzantine prevailing wage rules. California should be lowering costs for clean energy, not adding unnecessary red tape.
  • AB 2143 would kill small businesses and hurt the industry’s diversity goals.  Over 80% of California’s solar contractors are small businesses with fewer than 100 employees. Small businesses are the pathway to opportunity for underrepresented communities looking for economic opportunity and for ways to give back to their communities. AB 2143 would make running a small contracting business, already a challenge in California, untenable.
  • AB 2143 would make solar and electrification more expensive, especially in California’s inland regions. Solar systems are getting larger. Since 2015, the average residential solar system has increased in size by 20% to a statewide average size of nearly 7 kilowatts (kW) in 2021. Inland areas with hotter temperatures see bigger systems, with Fresno averaging 8 kW. Over 7,000 residential solar systems installed in 2021 exceeded the 15-kW threshold proposed in the bill, and that is just for grid-tied systems. Off-grid systems are typically larger. Further, electrification of homes will increase solar capacity. A typical home would require an additional 8 kW of solar capacity once heat pumps and EVs are added to the home’s electrical load.
  • AB 2143 will hurt the state’s affordable housing and commercial solar market. By applying prevailing wage requirements across the board to 35% of California’s solar market, AB 2143 will increase costs for affordable housing projects, farms, and other businesses consumers.  This is in addition to the impacts discussed above to the residential market.
  • AB 2143 is a bad solution in search of a problem. Solar installers are already paid a living wage. CALSSA’s survey of member data shows the average solar installer salary in the Bay Area, for example, is $74,000 per year plus benefits and can exceed $110,000 for senior project managers. Furthermore, many solar projects are already at prevailing wage rates due to the strong demand for on-site solar among government agencies, public schools, and the like.
  • Sungenia is against the bill as AB 2143 would make solar more expensive and would weed out the small and medium solar businesses. The bill would most likely not affect larger volume-model solar installers but would be devastating to other solar businesses like Sungenia. Please help spread the word and keep bills like AB 2143 from harming solar! Show your support for solar and make a phone call to stop it from being approved.

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