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1603: Corporate Welfare by Another Name

By Molly Sullivan

The 1603 program, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 was designated for job creation and job endurance for long-term economic growth in the field of renewable energy sources.

Michael Sandoval’s March 19, article in the Colorado Observer, “Liquor Stores, Fortune 500 Companies among Colorado Stimulus Beneficiaries”, highlighted how the 1603 program was able to slip under the radar allowing companies like Solyndra, funded under a separate section of the ARRA, to take the public heat. The numbers of jobs created is a number so difficult to calculate, all numbers put forth should be taken with a severe grain of salt. The article gives a picture of the types of companies taxpayers covered solar costs for in Colorado including restaurants, mega insurance agency MetLife, and the second largest bank in the US- Wells Fargo.

Looking at the 1603 program from a national scale however, it’s clear that big companies took the biggest holdings they could, with little emphasis on the sustentation of jobs. Some of the top recipients in Colorado also took 1603 tax credits in multiple states. Below is a breakdown of a few of the larger dollar amounts from the May 5, 2011, ARRA report.

SunRun Solar : $31,492,224.00
Based in San Francisco, the self-proclaimed “number one home solar company” in the nation, Sure took a huge chunk of taxpayer money without a whole lot to show for it considering each job opening cost taxpayers $1,499,629.71.

  • Five States: California, Massachusetts, Arizona, Colorado, and New Jersey
  • 21 job openings, 20 of which are in San Francisco, one in New York

SolarCity: $33,371,545.00

“America’s Number One Choice for Solar Power”, SolarCity operates in 14 states. They managed to rack up a hefty amount of tax credits for doing their usual private-sector solar energy work. They did have the most job postings out of these top company takers, still totaling a whopping $119,184 per job listing.

Metropolitan Life Insurance Company:  $20,976,044.00

The insurance giant is clear on their Web site that they believe in environmental projects, currently investing $2.5 billion in “renewable energy projects including solar, wind, and geothermal technologies”. A company has the right to pick and choose their social issues to fund, but not on the taxpayer’s dime. Separately, MetLife is already in hot water over the penalties they will face for faulty underwriting and questionable foreclosure practices after the housing market crash since foreclosure reform recently passed.

  • Five States: California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Arizona, Colorado
  • Recently announced they will be laying off 4,300 people due to a separate issue of mortgage foreclosure reform

The spreadsheet below shows a few other companies who took significant amounts of tax-payer money from multiple states.

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Molly Sullivan is an intern with the Independence Institute’s Energy Policy Center for Spring 2012. Currently she is studying political science at Regis University in Denver.