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California officials have approved $1.1 billion in spending so far from a voter-approved initiative that closed a corporate tax loophole to generate billions of dollars for energy efficiency projects at California schools and community colleges, but most of the work is not completed, senators learned at a hearing.
The vast majority of spending from Proposition 39, about $973 million, has been allocated for K-12 schools, which have more than 9,000 projects in the works that are projected to save $38 million annually in energy costs, according to the California Energy Commission.
Most of the work is "in the pipeline," with only 95 completed, testified the commission's executive director, Rob Oglesby.
Falling short of forecast
The initiative was sold to voters in 2012 as a way to generate billions for green energy projects at California schools and create 11,000 jobs each year. The Associated Press reported in August that less than $300 million had been distributed to schools and only 1,700 jobs created in three years.
The state Legislative Analyst's Office also recently reported that Proposition 39 has brought in an estimated $780 million annually, less than the $1 billion or more initially forecast.
The complex charts and graphs of approved spending presented at last week’s hearing were insufficient for Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Los Angeles), who questioned why so much of the reporting relies on projections instead of actual spending.
"This to me, it's nice, but I mean, it's government goo-goo. Come on man, this is a serious place. You could say this would be $7 billion if you want to project numbers and base it upon projections," he said. "I'm demonstrating a frustration because I have been in the private sector. ... I've seen the impacts and I do not accept the timeframes, because it does not take a year to make an assessment."
Oglesby said the state was requiring actual reports from the affected agencies that are due 12 to 15 months after a project is completed. Right now the agency only has data from 17 completed projects.
Still to come
A detailed accounting of how many jobs have been created is also many months away, as the state Labor and Workforce Development Agency prepares a comprehensive report on how many jobs were created at each jobsite. But a University of California, Berkeley, forecast given to lawmakers Wednesday shows fewer jobs than voters were promised — from 2.5 to 8.9 jobs for every $1 million spent, compared with the 20 construction jobs per $1 million that proponents touted.
Community colleges were able to much more quickly spend the money because the system already had similar programs in place, testified Susan Yeager of the Community Colleges chancellor's office.
The system has reported 180 completed projects, with another 432 in the works. They have also yielded the equivalent of 238 yearlong jobs. She said the work has saved enough energy to power about 4,000 homes.
"These are verified energy savings for completed projects," she said.
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