Democrat Stacey Abrams would seek to train more advanced energy workers, overhaul building codes and permitting standards to encourage more efficiency and create a Georgia “green bank” to offer incentives for environmentally-friendly construction if she's elected governor.
The former Georgia House Democratic leader said Tuesday her proposal would create between 25,000 to 40,000 new higher-wage jobs in all 159 counties and would save taxpayer dollars by increasing energy efficiency. Her aim, she said, is to “ensure no Georgian has to work more than one full time job to make ends meet.”
“We can imagine more for our state and create an economy that leads the nation in advanced energy jobs,” said Abrams.
It was the first in a series of job proposals Abrams plans to introduce in her bid to become the nation's first black female governor. She faces former state Rep. Stacey Evans in her party’s primary. Four leading Republican officials are in the race, and a fifth could soon formally announce.
Abrams’ plan calls for more training in Georgia’s higher education system for advanced energy workers and would prioritize incentives for students who seek energy jobs. It would expand the number of apprenticeships in the industry and pump new investments to retrain workers for a range of energy jobs from coding to construction.
The linchpin of the proposal involves creating a “Georgia Green Bank” that would incentivize investment in the industry through a low-interest loan program. The program calls for an initial $40 million annual investment, which Abrams’ campaign said would spur at least $200 million more in private capital.
It’s modeled after a program created by Connecticut lawmakers in 2011 that was the nation’s first of its kind. The Connecticut program is funded through a surcharge on residential and commercial electric bills, federal grants, private capital and other sources. Abrams' plan does not recommend a surcharge, and instead could finance the program through budget appropriations.
Abrams’ plan also opens the door to new tax credits for energy-efficient firms, a potential permitting overhaul to make it easier for residents to install solar panels, stricter efficiency requirements for the state’s fleet of vehicles and updated building codes to reduce waste.
Mitch Byrd, manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 926, said the proposal will "create high quality jobs across fields and sectors, from manufacturing and construction to coding and operations, in every community across the state.”
Abrams and Evans are locked in a bitter battle for the Democratic nomination, and both have diverging platforms and competing visions for their party’s future. The winner will likely face November as the underdog: No Democrat has held the Georgia governor’s office since Roy Barnes’ defeat in 2002.
Four Republicans are already in the race: Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, former state Sen. Hunter Hill and state Sen. Michael Williams. A fifth candidate, businessman Clay Tippins, filed paperwork last week to run for the seat.
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