The Current State

Federal and state tax credits coupled with state policies like net metering were intended to make residential solar installations more affordable for consumers and help states meet their state renewable portfolio standards. Their intent seems to have worked—residential rooftop solar is growing but the growth looks different than state leaders anticipated. Instead of homeowners making the upfront purchase of rooftop solar, an increasing number of consumers are choosing to enter third-party leasing contracts with solar leasing companies. In a third-party lease, a homeowner pays to have the solar leasing company finance, permit, install and maintain the system. The contract is attractive to homeowners because solar is installed without the large upfront costs and their solar utility rate can be set if the rate increased in the future.

President Obama focused on what he called “middle-class economics” in his sixth State of the Union address Jan. 20. Many of his plans to boost income and mobility for middle-class Americans—including tax reform and workforce development initiatives—will directly impact state governments. During the national address, the president expressed optimism the economy would continue “growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999.” Obama urged Congress to work with the White House on joint initiatives like trade and cybersecurity reform to continue this progress. But he also promised that he would veto any legislation that would reverse his efforts on immigration, climate change or health care.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx began his speech at last week’s Transportation Research Board—commonly called TRB—meeting by showing a clip from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” The one where Indiana Jones snatches the golden idol, but in the process triggers a chain reaction of crumbling walls, rolling boulders and other defense mechanisms. His point? “We’ve been moving from crisis to crisis,” he said. “I’ve been in this role for 18 months and over the course of that 18 months, we’ve had sequestration budgets that have constrained us, a shutdown that stopped us and a highway cliff—part one—that threatened to really stop work in states all across America. And even as we sit here today, we know that in a few short months—May 31 to be exact—we may be facing part two of the highway cliff.”