Landmark Green Jobs Bill is Win-Win-Win

By:  Dan Cantor
Huffington Post

What if we could help stop global warming, save homeowners on their utility bills, and create thousands of badly needed jobs too?

It’s not a far-off fantasy, it’s the power of the green economy.  And thanks to Albany’s leadership, New York is set to become a national (and global) leader in harnessing green technology -- and making sure its benefits are enjoyed by everyone.

The landmark Green Jobs-Green New York bill signed by Governor Paterson this morning in Syracuse, is based on a simple idea: set up a statewide fund to help homeowners and small business owners with the upfront costs of making energy-saving renovations and repairs, like fixing insulation problems or replacing an inefficient boiler.  Then, use part of the energy savings to pay the fund back and help finance repairs for the next home or business.

Using the power of energy savings to pay for itself means reaching far more homes and small businesses than current energy programs allow.  And taking away the burden of upfront costs means the benefits of green technology will finally be accessible to working families.   

For an older state like New York, the number of existing residential and commercial buildings that can be upgraded for energy efficiency is huge.  The program could reach an estimated one million homes and small businesses across the state in the next five years -- that’s nearly one in seven existing homes.    

For homeowners and small businesses, energy efficiency improvements mean an immediate savings on utility bills ("retrofitting" a home can cut energy consumption by as much as 30 to 40%).  For rest of us it means a cleaner environment.  With 40% of New York’s carbon emissions coming from the energy we use in our buildings, the Green Jobs-Green New York program could help make a major dent in our state’s carbon footprint.

One million home and small business upgrades also means new construction work and lots of new jobs; more than 14,000 jobs in the first five years of the program, according to estimates by the Center for American Progress and the Center for Working Families.  To meet that new demand, the Green Jobs bill will help train thousands of New Yorkers with the skills they’ll need to take part in the green economy, with a focus on communities across the state hardest hit by the recession.

Using funding from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – the Northeast’s regional cap and trade program and leveraging private investment, the best part about the Green Jobs-Green New York program is that it won’t contribute to the state’s budget deficit.

Put it all together and it’s a great example of how progressive policy can make a real difference. It’s also a testament to what happens when a broad coalition comes to together around a good idea.  The Working Families Party was a big supporter of the Green Jobs bill, but we were just one part of a team that included contractors, labor unions, community organizers, environmentalists, and investors.  

Together with Governor Paterson and legislative leaders (both Democrats and Republicans), that coalition helped put together innovative legislation that we hope will be a model for other states.