One thing just about every lawmaker will tell you about their job is that they try to be stewards of the public’s tax dollar. Indeed, every year we hear about how well the state doesn’t spend money when budgets are released, noting that the state does as much as possible with as little as possible.
It is a reasonable mentality to take – after all, the public doesn’t want to think that its money is just being set on fire and thrown down a hole.
The main way to tell if your money is being spent wisely is through reporting, and that is precisely what Senator Scott Jenkins (Republican – Plain City) is attempting to do with SB 13 – State Facility Energy Efficiency Fund Amendments.
[pullquote]Knowing how you tax dollar is spent is always a good thing, but will future lawmakers play political football with energy efficiency measures if SB 13 is successful?[/pullquote]The bill itself is simple enough. Under the Utah Department of Administrative Services, there exists the Divison of Facilities Construction and Management wich is responsible for managing all state-owned buildings. Within the Divison exists a State Facility Energy Efficiency Fund. This fund does what you might expect and helps the state pay for more efficient energy infrastructure within government buildings. With SB 13, Jenkins wants to make sure that the Divison will report on any actual savings that resulted from energy efficiency programs.
Though data is always a good thing to have, there is a very real concern that the legislature will be penny wise and pound foolish with the information gathered. Energy efficiency has benefits that extend beyond simple dollars and cents; cleaner air and less strain on our water and power infrastructure is a very real, and very difficult, thing to measure. Furthermore, when the low hanging fruit (such as replacing light bulbs) have all been exploited, it can years before savings are truly realised.
Light bulbs are actually a prime example of this. Though more efficient bulbs cost more, they more than pay for themselves over the life of the light bulb when compared the less efficient ones that also need to be replaced more often. Once you begin talking about building materials solar panels, it is easy to not see the forest for the trees.
If lawmakers are given straight data with little context, it is quite possible that reporting on the fund will turn the whole thing into a political football, with lawmakers getting easy points for “reducing government waste” when, in actuality, they are costing taxpayers more in the long run.
On its face, SB 13 provides policymakers with information to ensure that sound decisions are made with taxpayer dollars – however, vigilance will be required to prevent a slippery slope of funding cuts due to near-sighted policymaking.
To contact Senator Jenkins, click here or call 801-731-5120 (Home).
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