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Creating a new sector: Green Jobs Now!

Speaker Lujan

Speaker Ben Lujan

Could New Mexico become a national hub for green jobs? A package of bills modeled after the film industry legislation that’s brought a slew of television and movie productions to New Mexico could do the same thing for green jobs, say the lawmakers who sponsored the bills.

Three bills – one sponsored by House Speaker Ben Lujan and two introduced by Sen. Eric Griego – form the backbone of a robust network of incentives to be offered to schools that train workers for green jobs, to businesses who hire green workers and to companies who choose to develop green technologies in the state.

If passed, the three bills would to make New Mexico a pioneering force in the lucrative and socially-responsible fields of alternative energy and energy conservation.

And they could help New Mexico employers and educators claim a portion of the $1.5 billion for green jobs training that was included in the recently-approved federal stimulus package.

Observers say New Mexico has a great chance to beat out other states for the green jobs money.

Lujan Inspired by Son

I spoke to Speaker Lujan about his green jobs bill recently in his office at the Roundhouse.

Lujan is sponsoring HB622, or the Green Jobs Bonding Act, which would approve up to $20 million from a state revenue bond to provide financial support for higher education institutions to create and implement green jobs training programs. The act, which would have no impact on the general fund, would give priority to the state’s many low-income and rural communities, Lujan said.

“Native American tribes and individuals would benefit,” he added.

And while he said he’s been very impressed with plans from New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and President Barack Obama regarding alternative energy and green jobs, Lujan said it was his son, U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, who got him really enthused about the potential.

“Homeowners and businesses need to be able to get into using alternative energy. Everything we do to help that helps lessen our dependence on fossil fuels,” he said.

The Hollywood of Green Jobs?

Senator Eric Griego

Senator Eric Griego

Sen. Eric Griego said he modeled his two green jobs bill after the successful film industry incentives that have prompted out-of-state production companies to bring so many film productions to New Mexico.

Griego said he drew on his experience as former assistant secretary of the New Mexico Economic Development Department to help draw up the bills in a way that would particularly benefit existing and new New Mexico businesses.

His SB318 would appropriate a minimum of $1 million from existing Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP) money to aid businesses that actually install alternative energy technology such as solar panels or businesses that retrofit existing buildings to be more energy efficient. Currently, those businesses would not be eligible for JTIP money.

And his SB420, or Severance Tax Investment in Green Industries, would allot up to $15 million of the existing Severance Tax Permanent Fund to New Mexico industries that provide green jobs to local residents.

“These two bills together will provide the incentives to get small and medium-sized companies off the ground,” said Griego.

The hope is that New Mexico can incubate a green jobs industry that will both reward local employers and attract green technology companies from all over the nation, Griego said.

Gov. Richardson’s plans for a green jobs cabinet could help coordinate all the pieces put in motion by the green jobs legislative package, he said.

“Hopefully, we don’t want to just create jobs, we want to create a sector,” he said.

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