This story in the Wall Street Journal cast a pall of doubt over the $6 billion federal home weatherization program “Cash for Caulkers.” In detailing Michigan’s slow progress in qualifying for federal money under this stimulus bill (slowed by union wage provisions, historic preservation rules and other federal paperwork), the story raises some questions about taxpayer-funded job creation that may be pertinent to Oregon gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley’s critique of his opponent John Kitzhaber’s state school weatherization plan.
The basic concept of these weatherization plans is to invest public money in better-insulated buildings to cash in on the energy savings long-term. Better insulation means less heat and air conditioning, which can have all kinds of trickle-down benefits - including lower energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions. Kitzhaber says his plan would save the state $100 million, put people to work and increase energy efficiency by 15 percent.
Here’s how Dudley critiqued Kitzhaber’s plan when questioned by The Oregonian:
“Governor Kitzhaber’s weatherization plan doesn’t promote long-term private sector job growth and doesn’t restore confidence in Oregon as a place to build a business. Both are essential to saving our quality of life, getting people back to work and generating revenue for important government services like schools and health care. His plan doesn’t make Oregon more capital friendly to investors and entrepreneurs or more competitive with other states. It relies on charging millions of taxpayer dollars onto the state credit card to create temporary jobs estimated to cost $100,000 a piece. Like the discredited $300 million state stimulus plan, this proposal is based on a belief in government-sponsored, taxpayer funded jobs are equal to jobs created in the private sector – I disagree.”
We’re getting closer to the Republican/Democrat fault line here. Maybe the broader question is: If weatherization is such a good investment, why isn’t the private sector cashing in on these jobs already?