Washington, DC – On the same day Intel announced its decision to close a factory at its Ronler Acres campus, eliminating 1000 Hillsboro jobs, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley urged his new colleagues to include renewed investment in green technology in any economic recovery package.
“There is no way around the fact that this is a blow to Oregon’s economy and our efforts to stop the spread of unemployment in our state. Coming on the heels of Hynix Semiconductor’s decision last summer to lay off 1,400 employees and contractors, it is abundantly clear we need to launch a massive effort to encourage the creation of new jobs and new industries in our state,” said Merkley.
Yesterday, as the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committees began work on economic recovery packages, Merkley wrote to the chairs and ranking members urging them to make a substantial investment in green energy within the legislation, and specifically to include several provisions:
- Create a Public Buildings Energy Efficiency Retrofit Program. This program would create construction jobs by retrofitting schools, courthouses, and other public buildings with modern energy efficiency upgrades.
- Modernize the nation’s electricity grid. Major infrastructure investments should include implementing “smart grid” technology that helps direct electricity usage to non-peak hours and expanding transmission capacity for renewable electricity sources like wind, solar, and biomass that are concentrated away from existing transmission lines.
- Fund the Green Jobs Act. The Green Jobs Act would support the development and expansion of training programs by institutions of higher learning and unions to prepare the workforce needed to transform our nation’s energy mix.
- Temporarily modify the renewable energy tax credits. Modifications would allow developers to more effectively use existing tax credits and accelerated depreciation benefits to encourage investment in green technology.
- Temporarily expand the energy efficiency tax incentives. Currently, homeowners can receive up to a $500 tax credit for improving the energy efficiency of their homes, typically for 10% of the cost, and commercial building owners can deduct $1.80 per square foot. Temporarily increasing the percentage, the cap, or both on the residential credits, and increasing the commercial building deduction to $3 per square foot would help the hard-hit construction industry while serving an important long-term need.
Last week Merkley also joined several of his colleagues in urging Senate leadership to make sure states with high unemployment rates, like Oregon, receive a larger portion of stimulus funding. The senators noted that such states have a demonstrably greater need for federal assistance and that assistance should be awarded accordingly. At over 8 percent, Oregon currently has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country which directly impacts workers, and indirectly impacts the ability of states to provide much needed social services.
“With Oregon’s unemployment rate above 8 percent, we need to focus all our efforts on areas with the most potential for growth. The burgeoning green energy sector has already opened new facilities in many areas of Oregon – urban and rural. I will continue to advocate for increased investment in green technology to create living wage jobs and new starts for families across Oregon,” said Merkley.