Morgan County businessman John Christensen is upset.
Christensen, who operates Mountain View Solar, says his industry is supposed to be getting a tax credit under a 2011 West Virginia law designed to encourage the use of alternative fuels.
The law does indeed list "electricity. . . from solar energy" as an alternative fuel that could be used to power alternative vehicles that qualify for the credits.
Christensen says, however, that solar has been shut out of the tax credit largess.
He'll have to work that one out with the state, but the dispute raises a larger question:
Why would a state that has loads of coal and natural gas use taxpayer dollars to subsidize solar power in the first place?
The original legislation is filled with feel-good pap about how alternative fuel credits will reduce the dependence on foreign oil and improve air quality. The Associated Press reports the credits "cover 35 percent of the cost of an alternative fuel vehicle, up to $7,500 for cars and $25,000 for large trucks."
The original bill had no fiscal note, meaning it was passed without regard to how much the tax giveaways would cost. But now that the pricetag has become evident, the Tomblin administration wants to scale back the program.
The governor wants the credit to apply only to natural gas-powered vehicles. Evidently the aim is to incentivize that industry since West Virginia has huge supplies of natural gas.
The Associated Press quotes Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow as estimating that eliminating all other alternative fuels from the credit program will save the state about $10 million a year.
But here is the larger question:
Why is the state in the tax credit business at all?
The simple answer by those who support the concept is that credits, which reduce the amount a taxpayer has to pay, will help attract new businesses and encourage existing businesses to expand.