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State of the State touches on clean energy jobs, draws quick criticism

Gov. Jim Doyle delivers his final State of the State address Tuesday night in Madison. (Photo by Paul Snyder)

Gov. Jim Doyle delivers his final State of the State address Tuesday night in Madison. (Photo by Paul Snyder)

By Paul Snyder

A call by Gov. Jim Doyle in the State of the State speech to put partisanship aside and pass a bill creating green jobs in Wisconsin left some GOP lawmakers seeing red.

“It’s a bill written by people with vested interests,” said state Rep. Robin Vos, R-Racine. “There’s no way it’s going to get bipartisan support in the state it’s in.”

Job creation and retention was the focal point of Gov. Jim Doyle’s State of the State address Tuesday night, and one of the chief points Doyle seized upon was the omnibus bill based on recommendations by the Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming, which includes goals for building more renewable energy plants and energy efficient buildings.

“We will keep more of our energy dollars in our state,” Doyle said during the speech, his last State of the State address. “And we will create more than 15,000 clean energy jobs in Wisconsin — not just in these new fields, but in construction, manufacturing and agriculture.

“Let’s not let partisanship get in the way of passing this bill and making Wisconsin a leader in the clean energy economy.”

But Vos said the bill’s goals for more energy-efficient state buildings and homes add to construction costs and will probably cost the industry more jobs than it creates.

“I think builders could be the losers in this one,” he said.

The bill, which was only recently introduced and is still under review by the Assembly’s Special Committee on Clean Energy Jobs, is still a work in progress, said state Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison.

“Obviously there are going to be changes or concessions that have to be made,” he said. “But we really want to move forward with creating more green jobs in Wisconsin.”

As co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Finance, Pocan said he’s already seen opportunities available for renewable energy manufacturing companies through the federal stimulus program.

“Any job creation is an added win for this kind of legislation,” he said.

The bill — introduced by state Sens. Mark Miller, D-Monona, Jeff Plale, D-South Milwaukee, and state Reps. Spencer Black, D-Monona, and Jim Soletski, D-Green Bay — has already attracted a heavy amount of fire from GOP lawmakers and business groups. More than 20 state business groups signed a letter last month expressing concerns over issues covered in the bill, including new building code mandates and forcing utilities to purchase renewable energy without consideration to the cost effects on rate payers.

State Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, said Wisconsin should do more for renewable energy, but he’s not convinced the bill is the best tool for job creation.

“I’m only starting to study it,” he said, “but there are some things I’m already having trouble getting my head around.”

READ THE COMPLETE TEXT OF THE STATE OF THE STATE SPEECH

Reality check on Wisconsin governor’s initiatives

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