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Pawlenty promotes green jobs

Gov. Tim Pawlenty Monday announces an $86 million plan to add jobs in the renewable, solar and similar industries. He made the initial announcement in the Capitol, then flew around the state to promote it. staff photo by Don Davis

ST. PAUL -- Lower taxes for businesses that add jobs in renewable energy industries is a key part of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's 2009 economic plan.

As he was beginning a statewide tour announcing his $86 million "Green Jobs Investment Initiative," Pawlenty told reporters in a Capitol news conference Monday that he does not know how many jobs his plan would create. However, he said it would be a significant number and state officials predicted more than 114,000 Minnesotans will hold such jobs in the next 30 years. About 15,000 Minnesotans work in green jobs today.

Green jobs are those involving the manufacture or other work on renewable energy components ranging from manufacturing wind-powered electric generator parts to making crop-based fuels.

Pawlenty's proposal, which needs legislative approval, would:

-- Create a nearly tax-free environment for businesses that create green jobs patterned after the Job Opportunity Building Zones program for struggling rural areas.

-- Provide a tax breaks to investors willing to spend money on projects creating green jobs.

-- Give companies that produce solar or biomethane gas (such as from landfills and manure) energy credit toward meeting the state's goal of providing 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.

Democrats will find things to like in the program, said Rep. Tim Mahoney, DFL-St. Paul, chairman of the House Biosciences and Emerging Technology Committee. However, he added, there are too few details, such as about Pawlenty's green JOBZ plan, to know how far some initiatives will travel in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party-controlled Legislature.

The original JOBZ remains controversial and using the same concept for green jobs could be the same.

"Certainly, we are going to have questions about green JOBZ," Mahoney said.

Pawlenty said he expects a generally good reception for his plans, but cannot go as far as he wants, knowing that with a Democratic controlled Legislature he will not get everything he wants.

"If it were up to me, we would make the whole state more like a JOBZ zone," Pawlenty said.

The Republican governor said green jobs should be spread out around the state. The new JOBZ program would be for the entire state, not just rural areas, but greater Minnesota still would do well, he said, because it already is the base for most renewable energy efforts.

The Legislature faces what some experts say could be a $4 billion deficit. Pawlenty said Monday's proposals would have a minimal affect on the state budget.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.