Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Minnesota Lawmakers Establish Green Jobs Plan; Gov Takes Final Action on Budget

As one of several states working to recruit and retain companies that create green jobs, Minnesota lawmakers passed a measure to create a multiagency authority to promote, market and coordinate state agency collaboration on green enterprise and green economy projects. At the same time, legislators rejected Gov. Tim Pawlenty's Green JOBZ proposal, creating a tax-free program for renewable and clean energy businesses modeled after the original JOBZ program and part of the governor's Jobs and Recovery Act (see the Feb. 4, 2009 issue of the Digest).

The Ominbus Environment, Natural Resources, Energy and Commerce bill signed by the governor establishes the Green Enterprise Authority, a cooperative effort between the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and the Department of Commerce to design programs to attract green jobs to the state. The Green Enterprise Authority will receive the remaining balance of the FY09 special revenue fund appropriation for the Green Jobs Task Force. Establishment of the authority was a major priority of the task force, a bipartisan coalition of legislators, business leaders, policy experts and state agencies created by the legislature in 2008.

Lawmakers also rejected a measure providing $50 million in investment tax credits for certified capital companies (CAPCOs) introduced by the governor earlier in the session. Gov. Pawlenty proposed the investment tax credits, which would be deferred until 2012, available to insurance companies for early-stage investments in CAPCOs.

The governor vetoed a bill that included a $10 million-a-year, 25 percent tax credit for angel investors, citing opposition to tax increases in other parts of the bill, reports the Star Tribune.

Gov. Pawlenty took final action on the state's two-year budget last month following approval of a spending plan by the legislature in May that left a $2.7 billion shortfall between spending and revenues, according to the governor's office. Executive actions taken to balance the budget include a $100 million reduction in higher education appropriations and a 2.25 percent reduction to most state agency operating budgets. This is in addition to the 5 percent reduction imposed on many agencies as part of the recently enacted budget.

The Omnibus Economic Development bill includes $200,000 each year of the 2009-11 biennium for the Office of Science and Technology (OST). The OST was created in 2008 to develop a collaborative partnership between industry, academia and government to coordinate federal funding procurement efforts in S&T in Minnesota. DEED received $400,000 in FY09 to expand current SBIR and STTR efforts and develop a process for technology partnering and commercialization to enhance the S&T funding and technology pipeline.

Lawmakers also approved $500,000 each fiscal year for the BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota to recruit, retain and expand bio business activity, implement the Destination 2025 statewide plan, and update a statewide assessment of the bioscience industry.

The K-12 Education Omnibus bill approved by lawmakers includes $750,000 in FY10 for Math and Science Teacher Academies. The legislature approved $3 million for the creation of regional academies in 2007, which provide professional development and training opportunities to math and science teachers.

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