Those Expensive Green Jobs—If They All Are Green

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Thanks to reporting by Julia Horowitz at the Associated Press we learned that only 1700 of the promised 33,000 green jobs that were supposed to be generated over three years after voters raised taxes on corporations with Proposition 39 in 2012 have been created. And, all those jobs may not be true green.

While voters were told the measure was supposed to bring in $550 million a year in tax revenue to fund energy-efficiency projects in government buildings and schools and create those clean-energy jobs, so far the taxes have averaged under $325 million a year or $973 million for three years.

Still, you would think that would be enough to spark a green job boom. One might suggest that each of the 1700 jobs cost about $572,000. Okay, the defenders of the program say money is being held before major conversion projects are ready to go. But, what’s the status of those projects? Who knows? The board overseeing the Prop 39 projects has yet to meet according to the article as board members wait for more data.

Three years is not enough time to get some of the energy programs in gear, we are told. Government certainly has a longer timeline than private industry that must pay for the work.

What constitutes a green job is also a big part of the story. As was pointed out in the AP piece, half the money shipped off to schools for energy conversion projects was paid to consultants and energy auditors. I guess we count them in the green job total.

Determining what constitutes a green job is tricky business. Traditional jobs are often reclassified as green jobs depending who is doing the counting. For example, public transit workers can now find themselves doing green jobs on someone’s chart, although their duties haven’t changed. The Brookings Institution reports that 34% of green jobs are reclassified jobs.

The California Business Roundtable compiled a survey back in February from various outlets tabulating green jobs in California. Each entity came up with different totals. Generally, however, it appears that the green jobs made up about 2-percent of all jobs in the state.

The stewardship of the Proposition 39 money justifiably should come under scrutiny. Republican Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff has called for oversight hearings. Huff said in a statement, “It appears, once again, that the voters of California were duped into the false promise of passing a proposition that raised taxes with the promise of creating tens of thousands of new jobs – in this case green jobs.”

One thing the oversight committee should accomplish is come up with a good definition of green jobs and find out how many jobs actually fall under that definition.

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