Abby Gruen/The Star-Ledger  posted Jun 07,2010

New Jersey’s largest utility, PSE&G, was granted a 1.9 percent electric rate increase today, confirming a settlement reached May 27 of their year-long bid to raise money from ratepayers for capital improvements.

The Newark-based utilities’ request to also increase gas rates was deferred by the commissioners of the Board of Public Utilities because there was not unanimous agreement on a settlement of that case.

The $73.5 million in additional electric revenue awarded by the BPU today is a fraction of the $147 million requested. The average residential electric customer will see their monthly bills increase by $12.40 per year, or 0.89 percent.

PSE&G had originally asked the board to approve $230 million in additional revenue, which would have resulted in a return on common equity of 11.25 percent. Today they were granted a 10.3 percent return on equity.

“Given current capital market conditions, we felt this was a reasonable return,” said Mark Beyer, chief economist for the BPU, at the public hearing in Newark today.

PSE&G’s request to increase gas bills by 1 percent, or $14.32 per year for the average residential gas customer,was agreed to in a settlement reached last week by the utility and the BPU, the Public Advocate and the Large Energy Users’ Coalition; but Morris Energy Group, which represents wholesale gas customers, opposed the settlement.

The matter will likely be taken up at the next BPU board meeting on June 18th, said Lee Solomon, president of the board.

The president and COO of PSE&G, Ralph LaRossa said in a press release: “We need to strike a balance between the need for additional revenue and today’s tough economic realities, We will take whatever steps are necessary to operate our business within the parameters of this decision.”

The BPU also approved a settlement on an eight-year-old case by the Division of Rate Counsel, that will make PSE&G repay ratepayers for fees it overcollected since it was deregulated in 1999. Average electric customers will get back roughly $11 on their monthly bills per year for the next two years.

The BPU dismissed a 2007 petition claiming overcollection of charges related to deregulation, called stranded costs, filed by Richard G. Murphy II, and supported by the Chemistry Council of New Jersey and other ratepayer groups.

“The utility is being reimbursed for something that didn’t occur, and the BPU did not address that today,” said Daniel Sponseller, an attorney representing Murphy. Murphy and his supporters intend to ask the BPU to reconsider their decision.

A claim made in the rate case by the Large Energy User’s Coalition that PSEG Power has received preferential treatment from PSE&G by avoiding payment of fees other power providers pay, including societal benefits charges, was not addressed by the board today.

“We stand by our call for a freeze on rates until the issue of whether Public Service is paying its fair share of societal benefits charges is resolved,” said Ev Liebman, director of program advocacy for New Jersey Citizen Action. “Based on information that came out of this rate case, there are indications that we should be getting even more back for ratepayers.”

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As reported by David Fein  Post-Gazette

For nearly a decade, Pennsylvanians paid the same rate for electricity with no increase in price to account for inflation and global increases in commodity prices. No other commodity in Pennsylvania was price-fixed this way. Not natural gas or heating oil or water.

Yet for some reason, the end of electricity rate caps in Pennsylvania was predicted to be the apocalypse for businesses. But Jan. 1, 2010, came and went, and doomsday never arrived.

In fact, Pennsylvania has a good story to tell when you look back at the first quarter of electric competition in the PPL Corp. service area and look ahead to the opening of the Allegheny/West Penn market locally in 2011.

No less than 27 power providers are competing to serve residents, businesses, schools, universities, hospitals and units of local government where PPL used to have sole purview — and such competition can mean lower rates for customers. As a result, in only three months, 363,000 residential users opted for a new company to deliver their electric needs.

PPL estimates that 55 percent of large industrial users have taken advantage of the competitive marketplace and switched to other suppliers, as well. As important, this doesn’t include the businesses that have weighed their options and exercised their choice to stay with PPL.

After only one quarter in an open electricity market, it’s already clear the entrepreneurial spirit of Pennsylvania is alive and well. Businesses, universities and local governments are making smart decisions that not only help their bottom line, but that also provide stability across several industry sectors during an uncertain time in our national economy.

That level of performance reveals how Pennsylvania is well on its way to having one of the most successful competitive markets in the nation.

States from Texas to New York have opened their electric markets to retail competition but none had shown such immediate and dramatic results. Pennsylvania’s numbers will continue to grow as more businesses and other customers explore an open and competitive market — and as new marketplaces open on Jan. 1 for customers in areas serviced by Allegheny Power, Metropolitan Edison, PECO and Penelec.

While it’s early to forecast savings for Pennsylvania’s electricity customers, we can look to the experience of states like Illinois that have had competitive electricity markets for more than a decade. Over that period it is estimated that retail customers saved in excess of $1 billion. Pennsylvania has made the right decision for the long term.

Competition also has bred the development of new products and services not typically found in closed, monopoly-regulated markets. Today’s market opens the door to new possibilities for businesses to embrace environmentally friendly and cost-effective alternative energy sources such as wind or solar energy.

For example, the Harrisburg Regional Chamber and Capital Region Economic Development Corp. did something many would have thought impossible a few short years ago; it purchased wind energy certificates to power its Business Expo.

New energy companies in the PPL market also are challenging each other on new technological fronts to provide savings for their customers. Businesses no longer have to wait for monthly electric bills to set energy budgets; they can monitor their energy usage on more frequent intervals. This gives businesses the opportunity to plan ahead as to how they use energy, depending on what it costs at any given time.

Energy companies vying for business in a competitive, open marketplace foster innovation and new technology. In time, as customers become more sophisticated in exploiting the power of competition, they will demand greater innovation and specialized services from electric suppliers, and new products and services will be developed that provide greater control over energy usage and how that energy is generated.

The development of competition helps families and businesses control energy costs and allow units of government to preserve ever-shrinking resources. Such possibilities would never have developed under the old regulatory system.

Pennsylvania policy makers have developed a well-structured environment for competition to flourish — which will bring many benefits to Pennsylvanians for years to come.

Our Perspective:

The deregulated market offers great opportunities for savings for those companies that are paying more than $3000 a month for electric. HBS has clients in the PPL territory that are saving over 20%.

Granted the cost may be higher than what you have paid in the past 12 months, but when PA lifted their rate cap in Jan 2010, prices jumped.

The current PPL price to compare is arond $.105 cents per kwh. Depending on your usage patterns and cuurent market conditions, we were able to lock our clients in the $.082 to $.086 cent range.

Starting in January 2011, Peco customers will be joining the deregulated market. For commercial clients, Peco will be making 4 purchases from Sept 2009 to sept 2010. They have completed 3 of the 4 purchases and will be releasing a price to compare shortly.

For more information on saving in the deregulated utility market in PA email george@hbsadvantage.com

About Deregulation

July 19, 2010

As reported by PSEG

Before Deregulation 

Prior to New Jersey’s restructuring, PSE&G was responsible for generating electricity, transmitting the power to all regions of their service territory, distributing the power to the individual homes and businesses, and billing and service issues.  In addition, they were also responsible for all repairs to the electric lines and equipment.

After Deregulation

As a result of the New Jersey Energy Choice Program, the different responsibilities of the utilities were “unbundled” and the power industry was separated into four divisions: generation, transmission, and distribution, and energy services. The generation sector has been deregulated and, as a result, utilities are no longer the sole producers of electricity. The transmission and distribution sectors remain subject to regulation – either by the federal government or the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.   No matter which electricity supplier you choose, PSE&G will continue to service the transmission and distribution sectors of your electricity.

Competition is allowed between companies to provide power at discounted rates and superb customer service directly to customers. These companies are licensed by the state of New Jersey.  You also have the opportunity to work with an electricity broker or consultant who can compare different offers and provide additional services to help manage your energy spending.

In most cases, PSE&G will continue to send you your utility bill.  So the only thing that changes if you shop for a better rate is that better rate.

Our Perspective:

Deregulation has presented a great opportunity for busnesses who are spending more than $3000 a month on their electric bills. Open market electric prices are the lowest they have been in over 4 years. HBS clients are saving from10% to 25% on their electric supply cost depending on their uasge patterns. Those businesses that are designed to use more off hours usage, will find the largest opportunity for savings.

To learn more about your opportunity to save in the deregulated energy market  email george@hbsadvantage.com

Just the Facts!!!

July 16, 2010

With the current electric market prices being very desirable, deregulation has hit full stride in New Jersey.

If you are a business spending over $3000 a month on electric, you will find real savings by shopping your account with one of the 8 to 10 deregulated providers selling electric in NJ. Hutchinson Business Solutions is an independent energy management consultant who represents all of the major deregulated providers selling electric in NJ. We have been bring deregulated savings to our clients for over 10 years.

 If you are not currently participating in the deregulated savings opportunity, the timing could not be better.

 Just a word of precaution!

Due to the current market growth there are many new faces showing up hawking the merits. Be sure to know all the facts before making any decision.

First, the price to compare from your local provider includes sales tax. Should you be taking to a consultant or broker, ask if the price is fully loaded. ie: does it include the 7% loss allowance (to deliver 100,000 kwh of electric, the providers must actually send 107,000 kwh, for there is a 7% loss in transmission), also does it include 7% sales tax.

Both these components are included in the local provider price to compare.

We see many companies that fail to include these items in their presentation and therefore you are not comparing apples to apples. There are times we found that when you actually add these 2 factors, the price is higher than what you are currently paying.

Know the facts.

Ask the right questions.

There are opportunities to save from 10% to 25% in the deregulated electric market depending on your usage patterns

Remember… The local provider buys electric on the wholesale market and then bills their customers retails pricing. HBS puts their clients in the wholesale position.

To learn more email george@hbsadvantage.com or call 856-857-1230.

Visit s on the web www.hutchinsonbusinesssolutions.com

As reported in Huffington Post

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has expressed opposition to the possible nomination of Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, according to a source with knowledge of Geithner’s views.

The financial reform bill passed by the Senate on Thursday mandates the creation of a new federal entity charged with protecting consumers from predatory lenders.

But if Geithner has his way, the most prominent advocate for creating the agency may not be picked to lead it.

Warren, a professor at Harvard Law School whose 2007 journal article advocating the creation of such an agency inspired policymakers to enact it into law, has rocketed to prominence since the onset of the financial crisis as one of the leading reform advocates fighting on behalf of American taxpayers.

Warren has been an aggressive proponent for the bureau in public and behind the scenes, working regularly with President Barack Obama’s top advisers and the Democratic leadership in Congress. Since 2008, she has overseen the Congressional Oversight Panel, a bailout watchdog created to keep tabs on how two administrations spent hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to bail out Wall Street while struggling to keep distressed homeowners out of foreclosure and small businesses from collapsing.

Yet while her work on behalf of a federal unit designed solely to protect borrowers from abusive lenders has been embraced by the administration, Warren’s role as a bailout watchdog led to strained relations with the agency her panel has taken to task with brutal reports every month since Obama took office: Geithner’s Treasury Department.

It’s no secret the watchdog and the Treasury Secretary have had a tenuous relationship. Geithner’s critics have enjoyed watching Warren question him during his four appearances before her panel. Her tough, probing questions on the Wall Street bailout and his role in it — often delivered with a smile — are featured on YouTube. One video is headlined “Elizabeth Warren Makes Timmy Geithner Squirm.”

While her grilling of Geithner in September, over what members of Congress have called the “backdoor bailout” of Wall Street through AIG, inspired the “squirm” video, just last month Warren pressed Geithner on the administration’s lackluster foreclosure-prevention plan, Making Home Affordable. Criticizing him for Treasury’s failure to keep families in their homes, she questioned Treasury’s commitment to homeowners.

Warren’s persistent oversight is part of the reason for Geithner’s opposition, according to the source.

In addition, her increasing public profile could make it difficult for Geithner, who will oversee the unit until it’s transferred to the Federal Reserve. His role would involve trying to balance her advocacy on behalf of borrowers with the demands of the nation’s major financial institutions, his traditional constituency.

Geithner’s objections to Warren taking over that role also involve her views on Wall Street, sources say. The longtime professor believes the nation’s megabanks are Too Big To Fail and have been among the biggest abusive lenders in the country. Her toughness on giant banks is said to be a longtime source of tension with Geithner.

Obama’s top economic adviser, Lawrence Summers, is also said to have a strained relationship with Warren, though his stance on her nomination is not known.

Democrats in Congress have been among her most enthusiastic supporters. House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank is one of many influential members who hope she’ll get the nod.

And while labor and consumer groups often butted heads with Geithner on various aspects of the financial reform legislation, they have lauded his support for strong consumer protections. Warren, however, has been referred to as a “rock star” among consumer advocates. Many have told HuffPost they’re hoping Obama picks her to head the new bureau.

Geithner’s opposition could have political implications for a White House determined to prove it’s gotten tough on Wall Street. Since March, Obama has devoted four of his weekly Saturday addresses to highlight and promote the consumer agency.

In March 2009, in response to a question during a town hall event in Southern California about the bailout for Wall Street firms and whether Obama supported tougher consumer protections on credit cards, Obama promoted Warren’s academic work:

“The truth of the matter is that the banking industry has used credit cards and pushed credit cards on consumers in ways that have been very damaging,” Obama said according to a transcript. “There’s a woman named Elizabeth Warren who’s a professor at Harvard who did a great deal of study around this. And she made a simple point. You know, if you bought a toaster, and the toaster blew up in your face, there would be a law, a consumer safety law, that would protect you from buying that toaster. But if you get a credit card that blows up in your face, that starts off at zero-percent interest, and once they kind of suck in the — buying a bunch of stuff and suddenly it’s 29 percent; and if you’re late two days, suddenly, you know, you just paid another $30, and all kinds of fine print that a lot of folks didn’t understand — well, somehow that’s okay.

“I think generally having some consumer safety, some consumer protection around credit cards, is important,” Obama added.

Three months later, the administration released its blueprint for how it wanted to fix the nation’s broken financial system. Warren’s idea for a consumer agency was a heavily-promoted part of it.

Warren, a Treasury Department spokesman and a White House spokesperson all declined to comment for this article.

PSEG Summer Rates

July 14, 2010

As reported by ElectricityWatch.org

Basic Generations Service (BGS) rates for PSEG electric customers have been established for the new year.  BGS rates are the default rate for customers serviced by the utility PSEG who have not shopped for a competitive electricity supplier.  The new rates will go into effect on June 1.

PSEG default rates for the supply portion of the bill are divided into a summer term that begins June 1 and extends through the end of September, and the non summer term that begins October 1 and extends through the end of May 2011.  The default BGS rates include the entire Supply section on customer PSEG bills.  This is often an area of confusion to business customers who look into the benefits of competitive rate shopping.  The total price to compare takes into account the generation rate as well as capacity charges.  When customers just compare the per KWh rate on their current bill they are not getting an apples-to-apples comparison. 

In order to realize the actual price to compare, PSEG business customers should take their total supply charge and divide it by the total amount of KWh they consumed for the bill period.  This will result in a KWh rate that can be compared to offers from competitive suppliers.  This price to compare will include state taxes of 7%.  So if the competive rate does not include taxes (as will be stated on the contract) multiply the rate by 1.07 to get the true comparison rate.

The bottom line is that there are competitive electricity suppliers available for business customers serviced by PSEG.  Depending on the size of the customer and the type of electricity product chosen (fixed, variable, green energy, long term), savings can be as much as 25%.

Our Perspective:

They bring up a great point, know what you are paying with PSEG and if you are shopping your account, ask if the price is fully loaded.

The price presented from any deregulated provider must include the base price, plus 7% loss allowance(to deliver 100kw of electric, you must send 107kw, for there is a 7% loss in the transmission), plus 7% sales tax. This is an apples to apples comparison.

To learn more email george@hbsadvantage.com

Some more information about prices and rates.

Beginning January 1, 2011, the prices PECO and our customers pay for electricity will be based on electric market pricing, after having been capped more than 10 years. Gas and electricity will cost customers more.

At the same time, the costs to operate our systems have been increasing. Because of these increased costs, PECO has requested Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission approval of its first electric delivery rate increase since 1989 and only the second natural gas delivery rate increase in 20 years. PECO is requesting an electric delivery rate increase of about 10 percent and a natural gas delivery rate increase of about 7 percent.

On May 20, 2010 the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission formally suspended PECO’s request to increase electric and natural gas delivery rates. Part of the standard review process, PECO’s requested increases would have become effective on May 30 with no action by the PUC. The process now provides the opportunity to formalize a schedule of next steps including public hearings. Following these procedures, price changes will become effective beginning January 1, 2011.

Solar Impulse, piloted by André Borschberg, flew for 26 hours and reached a height of 28,543 feet, setting a record for the longest and highest flight ever made by a solar plane.
By ALAN COWELL
Published: July 8, 2010

PARIS — Slender as a stick insect, a solar-powered experimental airplane with a huge wingspan completed its first test flight of more than 24 hours on Thursday, powered overnight by energy collected from the sun during a day aloft over Switzerland.

The organizers said the flight was the longest and highest by a piloted solar-powered craft, reaching an altitude of just over 28,000 feet above sea level at an average speed of 23 knots, or about 26 miles per hour.

The plane, Solar Impulse, landed where it had taken off 26 hours and 9 minutes earlier, at Payerne, 30 miles southwest of the capital, Bern, after gliding and looping over the Jura Mountains, its 12,000 solar panels absorbing energy to keep its batteries charged when the sun went down.

The pilot, André Borschberg, 57, a former Swiss Air Force fighter pilot, flew the plane from a cramped, single-seat cockpit, buffeted by low-level turbulence after takeoff and chilled by low temperatures overnight.

“I’ve been a pilot for 40 years now, but this flight has been the most incredible one of my flying career,” Mr. Borschberg said as he landed, according to a statement from the organizers of the project. “Just sitting there and watching the battery charge level rise and rise, thanks to the sun.” He added that he had flown the entire trip without using any fuel or causing pollution. The project’s co-founder, Dr. Bertrand Piccard, who achieved fame by completing the first nonstop, round-the-world flight by hot air balloon in 1999, embraced the pilot after he landed the plane to the cheers of hundreds of supporters.

“When you took off, it was another era,” The Associated Press quoted Dr. Piccard as saying. “You land in a new era where people understand that with renewable energy you can do impossible things.”

The project’s designers had set out to prove that — theoretically at least — the plane, with its airliner-size, 208-foot wingspan, could stay aloft indefinitely, recharging batteries during the day and using the stored power overnight. “We are on the verge of the perpetual flight,” Dr. Piccard said.

The project’s founders say their ambition is for one of their craft to fly around the world using solar power. The propeller-driven Solar Impulse, made of carbon fiber, is powered by four small electric motors and weighs around 3,500 pounds. During its 26-hour flight, the plane reached a maximum speed of 68 knots, or 78 miles per hour, the organizers said.

The seven-year-old project is not intended to replace jet transportation — or its comforts.

Just 17 hours after takeoff, a blog on the project’s Web site reported, “André says he’s feeling great up there.”

It continued: “His only complaints involve little things like a slightly sore back as well as a 10-hour period during which it was minus 20 degrees Celsius in the cockpit.”

That made his drinking water system freeze, the post said and, worst of all, caused his iPod batteries to die.

The state of New Jersey will soon be issuing the 2010/2011 unemployment tax rate notices.

 For those clients with over 100 employees, it is important to be aware how these new rates will affect your company.

 Once you receive your notice, please fax a copy along with a copy of last years notice to HBS @ 856-857-1233.

 Upon receipt, we will review the information with you and validate the numbers are correct or discuss what options may be available with you.

 There are times that a voluntary contribution may appear to be beneficial. This contribution will actually lower your rate.  We will advise you as to the amount of contribution, as well as the anticipated tax savings.

 Please take note, due to the high level of Unemployment Benefits paid out, the State of New Jersey requires a higher tax rating table to be imposed this year. As a result, Tax Schedule “C” is in effect this year, compared to Tax Schedule “B” which was in effect last year. Thus, most employers will receive a higher tax rating assignment this year than they did last year.

To illustrate how this works, if you compare the two tables (see below portion of the tables) you will see that a Reserve Ratio between 0.00% – 00.99% last year produced a 3.0% tax rate; however, this year the same ratio produces a 3.6% tax rate, creating a 0.6% tax increase

 Tax Rate Tax Rate    Reserve Ratio       2009/2010        2009/2010 Difference

2.00% – 2.99%                    2.8%                          3.3%                            +0.6%

1.00% – 1.99%                     2.9%                          3.4%                           +0.6%

0.00% – 0.99%                   3.0%                          3.6%                          +0.6%

Unemployment Costs are rising and Unemployment Cost Control is more important than ever. The high level of unemployment, along with anticipated legislation, is expected to continue the trend of increasing unemployment compensation costs.

 Employers should continue to be pro-active in contesting unwarranted unemployment claims.

 While this has always been our position, it is important to continue to be diligent in this area.

 If you previously chose not to actively contest unemployment claims you may want to reconsider this approach in the future, based on the tax information outlined above.

 The successful participation in all unemployment hearings, with the assistance of our strategic partner DCR as required, will continue to help maintain the lowest possible tax rate. The impact of a few weeks in Unemployment benefits paid out may now have an even a higher impact to your bottom line.

Take the time now to proactively maximize your position on minimizing the cost of future tax increases.

If you should have any questions concerning the new tax rate, or would like specific recommendations for your organization, please do not hesitate to call.

 Now more than ever, controlling the cost of unemployment is important for your company.

For more information email george@hbsadvantage.com or call 856-857-1230

Visit us on the web www.hutchinsonbusinesssolutions.com

By Maya Rao Inquirer Staff Writer TRENTON –

 Last month, a state utilities board voted to allocate $15 million in federal stimulus money for grants to make businesses more energy efficient.

The money for the program, which seeks to lower New Jersey residents’ utility bills by reducing demand from the biggest users of the electric grid, should have come from a fee assessed on major commercial and industrial users since 2003.

 But the Retail Margin Fund, which holds that revenue, is empty – among the consequences of hundreds of millions of dollars in diversions from “dedicated” funds to help the state close a multibillion-dollar budget gap.

 Budget documents show that environmental and clean-energy programs designed to reduce New Jersey household and commercial utility bills are being hit particularly hard, with about $400 million rerouted into the state’s general fund.

The state raided $128 million from the Retail Margin Fund, which is generated by fees from commercial and industrial users, in the fiscal year that ended June 30, and will take $14 million under the $29.4 billion budget signed into law last week.

Greg Reinert, spokesman for the Board of Public Utilities, said the fund had never spent the money collected over the years.

 Today, he said, “there’s nothing left in it.” Just last year, the state enacted a law authorizing the fund to spend $60 million on combined-heat-and-power grants for businesses. The program aimed to help the state develop 1,500 megawatts of cogeneration capacity by 2020.

 Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D., Somerset), a primary sponsor of the 2009 law, criticized the shift of $15 million in stimulus money to fund the cogeneration program as a one-shot fix. The fund is paid into by business customers “who are hurting with higher energy costs.

 By taking their money away and not giving it back to them, to balance the budget, it’s totally inappropriate,” he said. Chivukula grilled the sponsor of the bill authorizing the diversions from that and other environmental funds on the Assembly floor during last Monday’s marathon legislative session. Yet Chivukula provided one of the handful of Democratic votes needed to pass the measure, citing “the spirit of bipartisanship.” “Given the dire circumstances we’re facing in New Jersey with revenue shortfalls, we have little or no choice” but to look to other areas “to make this budget balanced,” Assemblyman Joseph Malone (R., Burlington), the bill’s sponsor and a previous critic of budget raids, told Chivukula.

The moves concern lawmakers and environmental advocates alike. “One of the problems is that this isn’t taxpayer money. . . . It was ratepayer money that had been set aside and dedicated to clean energy that helps people save money and helps create jobs and helps reduce pollution, so it was a no-win situation for the environment, the economy, and the people of New Jersey,” said Matt Elliott, the global-warming and clean-energy advocate for Environment New Jersey.

 “Once they get used to robbing these funds,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, “they may continue to rob them because it becomes easy – and that is going to mean higher electric costs for consumers, fewer jobs in a time when we need to grow our economy, and more air pollution.”

The largest diversion comes from the Clean Energy Fund, which annually takes in about $250 million, an average of $20 per New Jersey household, through a charge on utility bills. The fee stems from the 1999 utility deregulation under Republican Gov. Christie Whitman.

Revelations that the administration of Gov. Jon S. Corzine rerouted $30 million from the fund in 2009 drew outrage from several South Jersey lawmakers. Assemblymen Vincent Polistina and John Amodeo, Republicans from Atlantic County, lambasted the move as “Exhibit A of budget-balancing gimmicks.” Sen. Diane Allen (R., Burlington) called for an end to the practice.

 But those same lawmakers closed out fiscal 2010 by voting to authorize a $158 million diversion from the fund, and an additional $10 million this fiscal year.

In interviews, the three legislators said they continued to oppose raiding funds, but described their votes as necessary in a difficult fiscal climate.

Polistina blamed the Democratic Corzine administration, saying it had “overestimated revenues so badly that we were left with very little options, and at this point it seemed like the best way to try to close the shortfall that was created by Corzine.”

The moves have also upset the industry: The Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association sued the Christie administration in May, saying diversions of clean-energy money were unconstitutional. Reinert said the impact of the diversions from the Clean Energy Fund had been softened by the BPU’s recapturing $61 million that had been set aside but never spent on various projects.

He said the BPU had actually increased funding for a successful home energy audit program. Taking money from dedicated funds is a longtime, if controversial, practice under administrations of both parties in Trenton.

State leaders gave approval last week to dip into funds dedicated to spinal-cord and breast-cancer research, disability payments, and economic development. They authorized diverting $10 million set aside to make state buildings more energy efficient, and tapping the recycling fund for $7 million, the same amount diverted last year. The budget also says that “all revenues from fees and fines collected by the Department of Environmental Protection . . . shall be deposited into the state general fund without regard to their specific dedication.”

States from California to Connecticut are raiding dedicated funds to offset enormous budget deficits. Rhode Island this year decided it was a violation of state law to divert cap-and-trade revenue from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which is an agreement among 10 Northeast states to cut carbon emissions. New York and New Hampshire, however, took millions from their RGGI funds this year.

New Jersey is redirecting $65 million in RGGI money to its general fund. Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D., Cape May) said the moves meant a lack of investment in the future, given that New Jersey has been “on the cutting edge of clean energy.”

He withheld his support for the budget last year out of numerous concerns about raiding dedicated funds, and has sponsored a resolution to bar the practice through a state constitutional amendment. He nonetheless voted to authorize the diversions last week, explaining: “We have to move forward in New Jersey.

We have to put out a message that we can’t have a [government] shutdown.”

Our Perspective:

I find this article to be really distuurbing. It just continues to validate my view that the system is broken. We have been caught up in greed and abandoned our ideals to be self serving. We have to rethink our efforts and start thinking outside the box.

The status quo is not working. The politicians are not serving our best interest. There must be a better way and we have to start electing people who our true to our ideals and will work to make this world a better place. Stop putting bandaids on everything.