HELP Wanted: Green Jobs

The Club was one of only two groups opposed to SB1403, income and property tax subsidies for renewable energy manufacturers. We were outgunned about 25-1 with hordes of lobbyists from economic development groups, cities, and government agencies pushing the bill. The price tag: approximately $350 million. The bill sailed through both houses despite our argument that the $350 million would be better spent on our corporate income tax cut (SB1324), which would benefit all companies, not just industries favored by government. During the House Ways & Means committee hearing on SB1403, a Democrat House member actually said he wouldn’t vote for the bill if the tax subsidies went to bicycle companies (as an example). We’re sure the folks at the Titus bicycle manufacturing plant in Tempe were pleased to hear that.

The band of lobbyists pushing SB1403 for the past year wooed many otherwise solid pro-growth Republican lawmakers to vote for it by touting the jobs the bill would create (House votes; Senate votes). This is very appealing in the middle of a recession with unemployment figures rising. Their argument was that it’s better to do something than nothing. But that’s often not the case. First, do no harm. What about the jobs lost at companies that are saddled with the burden of paying more taxes so that others can pay none?

And what about those new jobs? We hope for the state’s sake that GPEC and others are right, that SB1403 will result in a wave of new “green jobs.” But we can’t help but be a bit pessimistic. From today’s Wall Street Journal Political Diary:

“Nothing is perhaps more pathetic than the exertions of economic developers and politicians grasping at straws, particularly during hard times . . . All told, green jobs constitute barely 700,000 positions across the country — less than 0.5% of total employment. That’s about how many jobs the economy lost in January this year. . . . Green power is expensive and depends on massive subsidization, with government support levels at roughly 20 times or more per megawatt hour than relatively clean and abundant natural gas. . . . A recent study on renewable energy subsidies on the Spanish economy found that for every “green” job created more than two were lost in the non-subsidized economy.” — Forbes columnist Joel Kotkin on why green jobs can’t save the economy.