Washington, DC – The United States Senate this week will begin debate on a recovery package to spur economic growth and create jobs. Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley urged quick Senate action to ensure job creation programs begin as soon as possible. Merkley also lauded the inclusion of several provisions to invest in green energy.
“We are in the midst of a recession; there is no doubt among leading economists that if we don’t act quickly and boldly we will enter a prolonged period of economic stagnation,” said Merkley. “It took us years to get to this point and our economy cannot be fixed overnight but the bill before the Senate is a good start to putting our nation back on track.”
The American Investment and Recovery Plan includes funding for states to ensure the continuation of important health, education and housing services. It also invests billions in upgrading our nation’s transportation infrastructure, modernizing schools and repairing public buildings which will immediately create or save almost 4 million jobs nationwide, including an estimated 46,300 jobs in Oregon, according to White House estimates released today.
The legislation will also cut taxes for 95 percent of workers and their families, including tax credits of $500 per worker or $1,000 per family.
Critically, the bill also lays the foundation for future growth by investing heavily in the development and production of green energy. Senator Merkley has been working with the Finance and Appropriations Committees to assure inclusion of several green energy provisions in the package to be considered by the entire Senate:
- Create a Public Buildings Energy Efficiency Retrofit Program. The legislation contains a number of proposals for energy efficiency upgrades and construction of alternative energy projects at public facilities, including $3.2 billion to invest in and improve Department of Defense facilities; $1.6 billion to make schools and hospitals more energy efficient; $6 billion for repair of federal buildings to increase energy efficiency using green technology; and $1.3 billion in grants or loans to owners of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s assisted housing for energy and green retrofit investments.
- Modernize the nation’s electricity grid. The bill includes $4.5 billion for smart-grid related activities, including work to modernize the electric grid, enhance security and reliability, perform energy storage research, development, demonstration and deployment, and provide worker training. Importantly for Oregon, the bill also contains $6.5 billion of increased borrowing authority for the Bonneville and Western Area Power Administrations to pursue the construction of new transmission and upgrading of electric power transmission lines and related facilities necessary to deliver power generated by renewable energy resources.
- Fund the Green Jobs Act. $3.4 billion is provided for new competitive grants for worker training in high growth and emerging industry sectors with priority consideration given to “green” jobs and healthcare.
- Temporarily modify the renewable energy tax credits. The bill includes $13.1 billion for the extension and modification of 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. The bill includes $4.3 billion to temporarily increase tax credits for energy efficient homes so that families can invest in improvements and lower their energy use, and $1.4 billion to establish a new investment tax credit for facilities engaged in the manufacture of advance energy property.
Merkley also hailed the legislation’s $650 million for hazardous fuels reduction in areas at high risk of catastrophic wildfire. The funding will promote healthier forests and create jobs thinning overgrown second-growth forests in rural Oregon, a priority Merkley has emphasized.
“This bill creates jobs now and lays the foundation to once again harness America’s innovative know-how and lead the world in development and production of exciting new technologies. I’m especially pleased this bill focuses so much attention on capturing the new economic opportunities of green energy,” said Merkley. “In Oregon, our unemployment rate is at 9%. We cannot afford to continue the same failed policies that brought us to this point. The Senate has the opportunity to truly put working families first and help those who have been left behind over the last eight years. It is time for bold action.”