Three years ago, California voters went to the polls to approve a measure to raise taxes on corporations and generate clean-energy jobs by funding energy-efficiency projects in schools. Sounds good, but did the program live up to the hype? Not according to a recent investigative report.
According to a review by the Associated Press (AP), only about ten percent of the projected jobs have been created and the state has no information on projects or how the money is being spent. Some lawmakers are now concerned about how public funds for the program are being used.
“Money is trickling in at a slower-than-anticipated rate, and more than half of the $297 million given to schools so far has gone to consultants and energy auditors,” writes Julia Horowitz of AP. “The board created to oversee the project and submit annual progress reports to the Legislature has never met.”
According to AP, voters in California voted to close a tax loophole for multi-state corporations, sending half of the dollars saved to fund clean energy projects in schools. The program was supposed to generate more than 11,000 jobs per year. It didn’t. Horowitz reports that “only 1,700 jobs have been created in three years, raising concerns about whether the money is accomplishing what voters were promised.”
“It’s undeniable that Proposition 39 has created a disappointing number of jobs,” said Kirk Clark, vice president of the California Business Roundtable, which opposed the measure. “We’ve got a long track record in California of over-promising green jobs and under-delivering.”
The review shows that not only does the State Energy Commission lack critical information about where the money went, but schools also aren’t seeing the promised benefits from the proposition.
“The AP’s review of state and local records found that not one project for which the state allocated $12.6 million has been completed in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which has nearly 1,000 schools,” said school district spokeswoman Barbara Jones. “Two schools were scheduled this summer to receive lighting retrofits and heating and cooling upgrades, but no construction work has been done on either site.”
California’s experience is certainly disappointing and one can only hope that state supervisors will get to the bottom of where money from this program ended up. The voters, at the least, deserve that. No one should be surprised though. On the campaign trail in 2008, the president promised voters that $90 billion of taxpayer stimulus money would create five million new jobs within a decade. Four years later, the White House estimate of jobs gained was just 200,000. The money was spent, but the jobs didn’t follow.
Missouri taxpayers can sympathize. They were promised green jobs, too, that didn’t materialize. So can the people of Louisiana, who pumped tens of millions of dollars into subsidies for the solar industry, just to rank in the bottom half nationally in solar jobs. Maybe it’s time policy makers focus on what really creates jobs – keeping power rates affordable and electricity reliable – instead of chasing the next green phantom down the rabbit hole.