Crony capitalism. Picking winners and losers. Corporate welfare. Market-oriented conservatives opposed to extending the solar energy tax credits in North Carolina don’t mince words. Yet, so far they’ve failed to convince their own party to get rid of them. Last night, the State House adopted a budget which would extend the tax credits for another year, earning opponents the honor of having the Worst Week in Raleigh.

The debate over extending the credits has split the North Carolina Republican Party along its free marketeer/pragmatist axis. The free marketers want an entire course correction in government and they see Republicans embracing solar energy as exemplifying some of the worst of establishment-type politics. It doesn’t help that solar energy is in their minds associated with hippies and granola-eating liberals, as one observer noted.

Beyond that, opponents argue that extending tax credits for solar energy means propping up an industry that wouldn’t exist without the government supporting it. While some may concede that tax credits might have once been a good idea, they maintain the industry has had time enough to grow up on its own. If the government gets out of the way and solar happens to shrivel up and die, so be it. Let the market decide.

Despite this being a core conservative philosophy, a survey of the vote on the budget shows that it does not prevail among the House Republican Caucus. Last night Rep. Marilyn Avila of Wake County introduced an amendment that would strike out the solar credits. It got smacked down, hard, 38-77. The numbers for the overall budget: 94-23, an indication of strong bipartisan support. Those voting against tended to be on the more extreme ends of the ideological spectrum.

That’s where House Republicans opposed to solar find themselves now – on the extremes, and on the sidelines. The fight goes on to the Senate, whose budget will probably look completely different. Interestingly, Governor McCrory, who frequently finds himself on the “pragmatist” side, is with the free marketers on this one; he wants to do away with the credits entirely. So there’s still hope for solar opponents. This week, though, they lost a major battle.

Opponents to extending the solar energy tax credits, for rediscovering that free marketeers don’t run things in at least one chamber of the legislature, this week’s “Worst Week in Raleigh” award is yours. Congrats, or something.


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