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Last month, Oregon became the state with the fastest growing unemployment rate, adding another 1.4% to the currently unemployed and becoming the state with the second highest unemployment rate at 12.1%. Because of the dismal economic climate, it is tempting for Oregonians to support a policy that promises to add new “green” jobs. Unfortunately, a policy that specifically tries to increase job growth in a highly subsidized sector of the economy may do more harm than good.
Through House Bill 3300, Oregon will charge the State Workforce Investment Board to develop a plan to promote the growth of green jobs and the Economic and Community Development Department to “…develop criteria for existing investments and new or expanded financial incentives…to recruit, retain, and expand green economy industries and small business” and also to “…make recommendations for new or expanded financial incentives…to stimulate research and development of green technology and innovation.” Although a seemingly noble cause, new and expanded “incentives” mean taxpayer dollars going to prop up an industry that has lived off subsidies for decades. This is not a sustainable job growth model.
Luckily, Oregon has a perfect case study to determine whether green jobs will reverse our unemployment trend. Spain is considered one of the leaders in expanding the renewable industry and promoting a green job agenda. Last month, a Spanish economic study was released that assessed the impact of government spending on job creation-more specifically, green job creation. Using two different economic methods, the authors found that for every green job that the government manages to finance, 2.2 jobs will be destroyed. Thus, pursuing green job creation may very well be counterproductive.
If the Oregon legislature wants to create jobs, the focus should be on creating a market environment that is conducive to job growth by lowering the tax burden on both corporations and individuals.