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‘Green jobs’ initiative questioned

CARSON CITY — Lawmakers questioned today how Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford’s “green jobs” initiative would keep running once federal stimulus dollars are gone, and also asked about rules in the plan for contractors who would train and employ Nevadans.

SB152 would use federal stimulus funds to train an estimated 3,200 workers at a cost of about $3,500 each, and cover costs of weatherizing about 6,500 homes and upgrading government buildings and schools to make them more efficient. The bill aims to reduce greenhouse emissions, lower energy costs and create workers ready for the renewable energy industry.

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, asked Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, how projects started under the initiative would be funded once stimulus dollars run out, and what would then happen to workers hired for projects created by the initiative.

“Does the state have to pick up the balance or do you just stop?” Cegavske said, referring to the projects.

“So you have new employees. What happens to those people when their job ends? They’re hired and we have to tell them when they come in it’s only for this amount of time?” Cegavske added.

Horsford said the purpose of the program is job creation and economic recovery, and that the initiative is grant-funded and not meant to be ongoing.

While he didn’t know what future money would be available once the “one-shot” stimulus funds are gone, Horsford said that if the plan goes well Nevadans would be in a favorable position because they would be trained for emerging careers in green job industries.

“If it’s a success and the new administration continues to have a priority around funding for weatherization, then we will have lost nothing because we at least positioned ourselves to be able to capitalize on that in the future,” Horsford said.

“In the meantime we can serve thousands of needy families and people who need jobs. And that’s the only objective of the initiative before you today.”

Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, said bill requirements that contractors must provide prevailing wages and health care to employees and their families might limit contractors who participate in the program to organized labor. But Horsford said that nonunion contractors who handle public works projects would qualify under the bill.

Horsford also submitted amendments including a clarification that apprenticeship programs administered under the program must be accredited.

“There are a certain set of skills that are needed to carry out this initiative and we want those skills to carry into this industry we are creating here in Nevada,” he said.

Horsford also offered amendments to ensure that the state Division of Housing will focus on residential weatherization and that weatherization of public buildings would be funded by block grants and state energy programs.

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