March 1, 2010
On behalf of the Blue Green Alliance, our nine national partners, and the over 8½ million people they represent, we strongly urge the Senate to vigorously pursue a broad agenda that outlines an aggressive strategy to address our nation’s troubling unemployment rate. The jobs bill that passed last week is a first step in the right direction and we commend the Senate for its work.
However, bigger, bolder, more comprehensive action must be taken that addresses the full extent of the current situation. A new jobs bill must strive to shape and grow the economy while benefiting workers and the environment. That is why we are requesting the Senate to take these additional steps in the immediate future to pass other much needed components that a comprehensive jobs bill must include.
Provisions to save and create jobs must include proper investments and incentives in clean energy, transportation, infrastructure, manufacturing, and state fiscal relief. These pieces of legislation must have an immediate effect in creating and incentivizing domestic job creation, and must create a natural path toward the policies found in comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation, which is the best vehicle to ensure long-term economic security and prosperity. As the Senate crafts a package of programs, we urge that the following programs are included:
Energy Efficiency – Home Star, Building Star and Financing: Providing consumers and businesses with incentives to lower their energy bills through efficiency gains will create jobs while saving people money. Home Star would establish a $6 billion rebate program for consumers to invest in energy-efficient appliances, building mechanical systems and insulation, as well as whole-home energy efficiency retrofits. Home Star includes quality assurance provisions that will protect consumers and ensure high quality installation. These require a minimum baseline protocol for field inspection. In all cases, reduced inspection rates will be offered for contractors employing a trained and certified workforce.
A portion of the investments in the Home Star program should be available for use to support state-based financing of building energy-efficiency retrofits and installation of on-site renewable systems. Additionally, Section 1705 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which Congress added in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, should be expanded to allow credit enhancement of financing products and programs for building efficiency retrofits and on-site renewable energy systems.
The Building Star program is similar to Home Star, but focuses on commercial buildings in a two-part approach. First, the program authorizes a simple and straightforward rebate program for building owners who install or implement energy-efficient building equipment, materials, products and service during. Second, the program would include a package of improvements to existing, and in some cases proposed, tax incentives.
Transportation and Infrastructure: Our nation’s infrastructure woes are well documented, and while the Recovery Act provided a necessary boost, it was not enough. While our goal must be to pass a long-term reauthorization of the transportation bill, we must provide funds immediately to clear out the backlog of necessary road, bridge, and public transit projects. In addition, Congress should offer grants to upgrade school buildings, making them more efficient and healthier for our children.
We should also use this opportunity to further invest in our nation’s public transportation sector by continuing to fund high-speed rail and providing transit agencies the flexibility to use funds for operating assistance. To ensure that the jobs created by transportation and infrastructure funding are good jobs, prevailing wage requirements must be applied to all federally assisted construction jobs.
Manufacturing – Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit and Industrial Efficiency: As we transition to the clean energy economy, it will be our manufacturing sector that determines whether America is a global clean energy leader or – as we are with oil – just another importer. The Recovery Act created the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Credit, providing $2.3 billion to establish or reequip facilities to manufacture clean energy products. This program proved to be successful, but over-subscribed. We must increase the funding level to at least $5 billion – what President Obama proposed in his 2011 Budget.
Our manufacturing sector needs a long-term investment to ensure that we stay on top of the clean energy industry. Senator Brown’s IMPACT Act provides grants to states so that they can establish revolving loan funds to facilitate clean energy manufacturing projects in their states. While this program will need a significant amount of funding to effectively leverage long-term stability, a smaller, and more targeted pilot version would give the manufacturing sector a much-needed short-term boost and act as down payment on the necessary funding only an integrated climate and energy bill can provide. In addition, our manufacturing sector can improve our country’s competitiveness by making gains in efficiency. Funding should be provided through existing programs to channel grants to facilities to innovate and improve the efficiency of their production methods.
State Fiscal Relief: While we strive to create jobs to bring our thousands of unemployed workers back into the workforce – and providing long-term fiscal solvency to states and localities, we must ensure that no more public employees, such as firefighters, police officers, and educators, lose their jobs due to a tough budget climate.
Buy America: The Senate must maximize the use of America-made steel, rubber, glass, cement, and other manufactured goods used in the construction, improvement, and rehabilitation of buildings and infrastructure projects. Strong domestic sourcing language has proven to significantly enhance domestic job creation without interfering with our trade laws and was popularly included in the Recovery Act. We must build off of the Buy America provisions in the Recovery Act and the House of Representatives’ Jobs for Main Street America Act of 2010, and utilize and transparently implement domestic sourcing for infrastructure and other spending.
America must continue on a path that establishes us as the leader of the global clean energy economy. Passing comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation will ensure that we are dedicated to this goal. As we confront this challenge, Congress can ensure that we take initial steps in that direction with legislation that creates jobs, improves our transportation and infrastructure, retrofits our homes and buildings, enhances our manufacturing base, and provides much needed assistance to state and local governments so that they can maintain critical public services in the face of declining revenues.
Leo W. Gerard, International President
Carl Pope, Executive Director
Larry Cohen, President
Communications Workers of America
Frances Beinecke, President
Natural Resources Defense Council
Andrew Stern, President
Service Employees International Union
Terence M. O’Sullivan, General President
Laborers’ International Union of North America
Randi Weingarten, President
American Federation of Teachers
D. Michael Langford, National President
Utility Workers Union of America
Warren S. George, International President
Amalgamated Transit Union