Pawlenty goes green
By Jeff Hansel
Gov. Tim Pawlenty got a warm, bipartisan welcome in Rochester as he unveiled his "Green Jobs Investment initiative."
The proposal, offered for consideration for the upcoming legislative session, focuses on renewable energy. It would create a "Green JOBZ" designation using tax exemptions to spawn investment and job creation.
It would give tax credits to businesses that create jobs related to solar energy, methane use and wind energy.
"We know we are in a very serious recession, with concerns about how long it will last," Pawlenty told more than 30 business leaders, farmers and legislators from southeastern Minnesota who gathered at Rochester Aviation on Monday.
Projections suggest a $1 billion state deficit for the next biennium. But Pawlenty said that that estimate was made before the recent international economic meltdown.
"Those numbers are going to dramatically worsen between now and the next forecast," he said.
The plan would give incentives to businesses and farmers to capture methane. But it could also encourage cities to capture and use the gas, which is produced by manure, sewage and landfills.
Normally, methane, which is a "greenhouse gas," is wasted, said Republican Sen. Dave Senjem of Rochester.
"We hope that our dairy farmers, our livestock producers in Minnesota will become energy producers," Pawlenty said.
Methane can be used instead of natural gas. "So it can become a very valuable commodity," Pawlenty said.
Republican Rep. Randy Demmer of Hayfield joined the governor’s bandwagon. The initiative fits Minnesota’s effort to develop business enterprise, he said.
DFL Rep. Andy Welti of Rochester praised Pawlenty’s willingness to work on renewable energy issues in a bipartisan fashion.
"A number of these ideas are right in line with what Minnesota has been doing," he said, noting he looks forward to working with the governor during the upcoming session.
Senjem said the possibility of renewable-energy development has become the "perfect storm."
"We need jobs. We need energy independence. And we need to create some jobs in this state," he said.
"In general, we enjoy bipartisan support for renewable energy."
After his announcement, Pawlenty told the Post-Bulletin that residents can help by encouraging legislators to support renewable energy legislation.
Welti said Pawlenty has "really solid ideas." The only worry will be tax credits and how to balance that against a lack of available state money. He said one possibility is to find a program that’s not working well and replace it with Pawlenty’s.
"I’ve been impressed with the governor over the past couple of years helping us pass renewable-energy legislation," Welti said.
Senjem said the $3.65 million cost of the proposals in 2010/2011 will pay off.
"Putting that investment into this, I think, will yield — many, many times over — a positive revenue stream," he said.
To see details of Pawlenty’s plan, see Postbulletin.com/weblinks.
Green Jobs Investment Initiative