Green Economy Measures Advancing as States Focus on Jobs

As the national political conversation focused on deficits and budget cuts over the past few months, many state legislatures have at least noticed that the top concern of voters across the nation remains job creation. The New York Times - in an analysis of a list compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures - counted the total number of bills introduced in 2011 legislative sessions that attempted to address this concern: 500.  

Progressive state legislators have taken the lead in many states in advancing economic opportunity and creating jobs, introducing and successfully enacting bills that promise real job creation strategies within the parameters of fostering a sustainable economy, safeguarding the health of our communities, and protecting our environment for future generations. Many of these job creation efforts parallel policy priorities in Progressive States Network’s 2011 Blueprint for Economic Security: building a green economy by creating good jobs that set our nation on a path to energy independence.

Last month, Progressive States Network reported how New York took one step closer to creating 14,250 full-time jobs while retrofitting one million low-income household and small businesses. The New York Power Act of 2011 — signed into law last week by Governor Cuomo — established the first statewide “on-bill recovery” program, allowing charges for retrofitting a home or business to be included in a utility bill statement and paid over time, with monthly payments calibrated to include energy savings so that the loan doesn’t increase the bill.

Progressive leaders in Oregon also won a significant victory with the passage of House Bill 2960, dubbed “Cool Schools,” this session. It passed unanimously in both chambers — including the evenly-split Oregon House of Representatives, and received the immediate approval of the Governor. The bill also received the support of labor unions and environmental organizations. Here is more about Oregon’s “Cool Schools” law, and how it will help Oregonians:

What “Cool Schools” Does: HB 2960 directs the Oregon Department of Energy to create a four-year high-performance school pilot program and creates a Clean Energy Deployment Fund to help pay for energy efficiency and seismic upgrades in Oregon’s K-12 classrooms.

No Effect on the State’s Budget:The bill does not depend on monies apportioned by the state budget. The funding will originate from a variety of existing accounts, among them federal bonds called Qualified Energy Conservations Bonds, the State Energy Loan Program (SELP), and private funds. No injection of new money will occur; instead, the law aims to better coordinate the existing programs and resources.

The funds will be made available to school districts through grants and low-interest loans, ranging from 3 percent to 4.5 percent. These inexpensive loans will create a sustainable pool, where SELP can survive and more schools become retrofitted and seismically fit. As maintained by the Governor, the law is “just a down payment.” He predicts that there will be an expansion that would eventually engage private ventures and utilities to form financial partnerships.

Accountability for Schools: Participating schools will be required to track their savings through their utility bills. The schools will pay back their low-interest loans through the savings they will gain when they become energy efficient.  

Job Creation in the Green Economy: With the construction, operation, and maintenance of the new schools, many jobs are predicted to be created. The bill makes sure that jobs are created and that they stimulate local businesses; it requires school districts to hire only Oregon-based contractors in order to qualify for funding.

Conservatives, who voted for the bill, affirmed that the law will create jobs for Oregonians. Governor Kitzhaber has also claimed that the law will stimulate job creation, citing a study that concludes that for every $1 million invested in energy efficiency, 15 good jobs are created.

With “Cool Schools,” Oregon is preserving a safe and healthy environment for children, families, and workers while creating jobs and allowing for savings through energy efficiency and clean energy. Through the enactment of this law,Oregon joins New York and other states in realizing that green jobs can help to build a strong workforce while saving costs for taxpayers.

Full Resources from this Article

Green Economy Measures Advancing as States Focus on Jobs

Progressive States Network - Blueprint for Economic Security: Job Creation
Center for Working Families - Gov. Cuomo Signs Power NY Act of 2011
Sustainable Business Oregon - 'Cool Schools' viewed as symbolic win, questions remain
The Oregonian - Gov. John Kitzhaber signs bill to start making Oregon school buildings energy efficient
Oregon Capitol News - ‘Cool Schools’ initiative aims to improve energy efficiency, academics and jobs

This article is part of PSN's email newsletter, The Stateside Dispatch.
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