Bill pitches incentives for efficient homes

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Colorado homebuyers would be eligible for new financial incentives toward the purchase of energy efficient homes under a Democrat-sponsored bill that passed the state Senate on April 30.

The measure now heads to the governor's desk for his signature.

But Republicans opposed the "Colorado Energy Saving Mortgage Bill" the entire way this legislative session, arguing that the bill is another example of Democrats subsidizing tax dollars for a "feel good" program that doesn't really do anything.

House Bill 1105 gives Coloradans up to $8,000 in incentives to either buy or rehabilitate homes that are energy efficient. Homeowners would be eligible to pocket the incentives in multiple ways, including having the option of an interest rate buy-down, or having the down-payment of their mortgage reduced.

Rep. Max Tyler, D-Lakewood, a House sponsor of the bill, said the program not only saves homeowners' money, it can also lead to positive environmental impacts on the state.

"It's an attempt to drive the marketplace, to some degree, to more energy efficiency," Tyler said.

The bill redefines the existing Colorado Energy Star mortgage incentive program — which is administered by the Colorado Energy Office — by creating an energy-saving mortgage cash fund that is made up of state appropriations and matching funds from utility companies.

The bill passed on party-line votes in both chambers of the General Assembly this session, most recently by a 20-15 vote in the Senate on April 30.

Though there was no debate in the Senate, Republicans argued against the bill during a March 26 House debate, where they stressed the bill promotes energy efficiency on the backs of taxpayers, and that the legislation should have been targeted more toward lower-income families.

Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, didn't care how her colleagues voted on the bill because she considered the legislation useless.

"This is a feel-good bill, but doesn't do anything," she said.

The bill is one of several energy-related pieces of legislation that Tyler has been promoting this legislative session.

The legislation includes bills that expand financing of new energy improvements for commercial properties, and separate legislation that expands state contracts that seek energy-cost savings to include those that increase state vehicle operation and fuel cost savings.

Tyler said he's been able to move on energy bills this session compared to years past when Democrats did not have the majority power they now enjoy.

"After playing defense the last couple of years, we're able to move things forward again," he said.

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