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Is stimulus a lifesaver or boondoggle for Washington?

Post by John Henrikson / The News Tribune on Feb. 17, 2010 at 3:41 pm |
February 17, 2010 3:41 pm

Predictably, this week’s first anniversary of the economic stimulus package is being used by both sides to bolster their own view of reality.

Administration supporters are touting the spending infusion (some would say more like an I.V. drip) as saving the country from another Great Depression. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar joined Gov. Chris Gregoire in Seattle today, touting the stimulus’ job creation and project completion in Washington state.

Here’s how the governor put it:

“With Recovery Act funding, we have supported and sustained thousands of living-wage jobs while greatly improving our communities … Without this funding, more people would be out of work. The unemployed would be in a worse position than they are now. The Recovery Act kept our state from falling off the ledge by providing vitally important transportation, environmental and other community improvements.

Meanwhile, GOP critics are blasting the stimulus as a monumental waste of money with little to show for it. As Gregoire and Salazar were holding a press conference, state GOP Chairman Luke Esser fired off his own press release:

“The Obama Administration must be awfully concerned about its ineffective stimulus plan, because this is the second visit by top Administration officials in as many weeks to our state in an attempt to put a happy face on their increasingly unpopular and wasteful spending. Rather than propping up the so-called success of this binge spending experiment, Secretary Salazar should get back to business in the other Washington and start working in a bipartisan manner to create real jobs for Washingtonians.”

Read on for the full press releases.

A Year Later: Gov. Gregoire, Interior Secretary Salazar highlight success of Recovery Act
Washington reaches Recovery Act milestone ahead of deadlines, puts people to work, improves infrastructure, water quality
 
SEATTLE – On the first anniversary of the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Gov. Chris Gregoire today joined Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to highlight state investments made possible by the Recovery Act.
 
“With Recovery Act funding, we have supported and sustained thousands of living-wage jobs while greatly improving our communities,” Gregoire said. “Without this funding, more people would be out of work. The unemployed would be in a worse position than they are now. The Recovery Act kept our state from falling off the ledge by providing vitally important transportation, environmental and other community improvements.”
 
Earlier this month, Gregoire announced that approximately 14,500 jobs were created or sustained in the state with Recovery Act funds during the last quarter of 2009.
 
“Today, we are seeing the real difference the Recovery Act is making across Washington state – from new jobs being created to the lasting benefits of  the environmental restoration work that is under way at Olympic National Park,” said Salazar. “The Recovery Act has helped turn our country back from the economic cliff we were facing just one year ago, and it is helping lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity in our country.”
 
Gregoire also announced that three state agencies have fully obligated their Recovery Act funds ahead of deadlines.
 
The Washington State Department of Transportation has obligated all its highway and transportation funds before its March 2 deadline. The departments of Ecology and Health have signed contracts in place for all their Recovery Act water projects in advance of their Feb. 17 deadlines.
 
“We continue to make critical investments that are putting people to work across our state,” Gregoire said. “By stretching our federal dollars farther, we are completing more projects, which results in a more reliable transportation system and safer communities. In the process, we’re literally laying the groundwork for economic prosperity and robust, thriving communities.”
 
To date, Washington state has received nearly $500 million in Recovery Act funds for state and local highway construction projects. In addition, Washington has received $179 million for transit projects, and last month was awarded $590 million for high-speed intercity rail projects.
 
Lower bids on Recovery Act highway projects helped WSDOT build more highway projects than first planned. By the end of January, WSDOT had awarded 37 state projects, with bids averaging 28 percent below engineer estimates.
 
As of Feb. 9, 2010, WSDOT and local governments completed 91 of 195 highway projects. Through December 2009, workers have logged more than 1.36 million labor hours on Recovery Act projects.
 
“These dollars helped Washington workers and our local communities, and improved our transportation system,” said Paula Hammond, Washington’s transportation secretary. “Now we will build on that success and stay ready for other federal investments.”
 
Ecology is investing $65 million in Recovery Act funds in local government projects for water pollution control infrastructure, including the upgrade and expansion of wastewater, reclaimed water and stormwater facilities.
 
Seventeen clean water projects are under contract in Airway Heights, Arlington, Bremerton, , Olympia, Raymond, Richland, Rock Island, Seattle, South Bend, Spokane, Tacoma and Uniontown, and  Clark, Cowlitz, Kittitas, Mason and Thurston counties.
 
 “Our economy and our Washington way of life depend on clean water and healthy people, communities and work places,” said Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant. “These  projects are a great investment in long-term economic and community vitality while they put people to work t now.”
 
The Department of Health is overseeing $38 million in 21 Recovery Act projects to improve drinking water systems across the state.  
 
“There are few needs as basic as safe, reliable drinking water,” said Secretary of Health Mary Selecky. “These are important projects, and the need is real. The people in these 21 communities will benefit from improved drinking water systems as well as the jobs created or retained.”
 
To commemorate the anniversary of the historic funding package, WSDOT has built a special web page featuring individual stories about some of the workers on its Recovery Act Web site, www.wsdot.wa.gov/funding/stimulus/recovery
 
For more information on employment data, project lists, project pages and program delivery information, visit WSDOT’s Web site at www.wsdot.wa.gov/funding/stimulus.

WHITE HOUSE DISPATCHES SECRETARY KEN SALAZAR TO PROP UP THEIR FAILED STIMULUS PACKAGE

SEATTLE – Washington State Chairman Luke Esser released the following statement regarding Secretary Ken Salazar’s visit to Washington State:

“Today in honor of the one-year anniversary of the Administration’s $862 billion economic stimulus experiment, the White House has decided to dispatch Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to Washington State for a press conference and photo-op with Governor Gregoire.

“The so-called stimulus has been a complete boondoggle, because when it was signed into law, this administration promised it would “create or save” 79,700 jobs in the Evergreen State. But last year our state lost over 85,000 jobs. Even more embarrassing to the Administration, according to recovery.gov, 142.6 jobs were created by spending over $35 million in our nonexistent 99th Congressional District.

“The Obama Administration must be awfully concerned about its ineffective stimulus plan, because this is the second visit by top Administration officials in as many weeks to our state in an attempt to put a happy face on their increasingly unpopular and wasteful spending. Rather than propping up the so-called success of this binge spending experiment, Secretary Salazar should get back to business in the other Washington and start working in a bipartisan manner to create real jobs for Washingtonians.”

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