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Category: Stimulus


U.S. Rep. Adam Smith tells Tacoma Rotary he doesn’t hold out much hope for the Super Committee

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith Thursday compared himself to Ross Perot, minus the billionaire stuff.

He was joking about the line of charts and graphs that he placed on easels in front of Tacoma Rotary 8 members to illustrate his viewpoint on the federal budget problems. A pie chart showed the distribution of federal spending. A bar chart showed how the feds will raise $2.16 trillion and spend $3.4 trillion.

The federal government borrows more than one-third of what it spends, Smith said, yet when asked what specific area of government they would support cutting, a majority of Americans can’t agree on a single area.

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith

“Which gets us to the problem,” Smith said deficit reduction. “If you’re 40 percent out of whack and you don’t want to cut anything and you don’t want to raise taxes you’re not going to get there.”

Smith’s advice for the so-called Super Committee charged with finding $1.2 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years is that everything be on the table – savings in entitlement programs, cuts in defense and more revenue.

“Revenue has got to be part of the equation,” he said. But when asked by a Rotarian if he thought the Super Committee, which is co-chaired by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, has a chance of succeeding, Smith said, “probably not.” The reason is that the committee is afflicted with the same politics that nearly brought the U.S. government to a budgetary standstill in August.

“A lot of Republicans still say no revenue increases. Democrats are not as reluctant to put entitlements on the table but they are still very reluctant,” Smith said. Read more »


Inspections of weatherized homes get scrutiny

The state’s home-weatherization program has seen its work multiply because of federal stimulus money. A performance audit released today by State Auditor Brian Sonntag‘s office found mixed results.

First, a look at the work that has been done with the help of nearly $60 million in Recovery Act funding for Washington:

The projects — meant to reduce energy use in needy families’ homes through new insulation and furnaces, more energy-efficient windows and the like — got off to a slow start in 2009 but ramped up in 2010, with contractors weatherizing more than 8,049 Washington housing units that year. The average in 2005-2008 had been about 3,300.

Local agencies like Pierce County Community Services and the Metropolitan Development Council of Tacoma contract for the improvements, with oversight from the Department of Commerce which hands out the money.

There were 329 housing units weatherized through the Tacoma nonprofit last year, more than triple any of the previous five years. Another 742 homes were weatherized by Pierce County.

The audit found good and bad in Commerce’s monitoring. For example, the state did plenty of inspections checking over the shoulders of the local agencies, auditors found. But state officials didn’t consistently follow up to make sure agencies fixed problems, according to the audit.

After one inspection, which found the state had paid $7,300 for incomplete work on a project, the local agency went back in. But a re-check last September found the corrective work was itself faulty. The roof was leaking where a bathroom fan had been installed, causing a mold problem. Read more »


Tacoma: Modular parking garage eyed for Dome would add up to 700 spaces

What would the pre-fabricated parking lot proposed to be built across from the Tacoma Dome look like? And how would it be built?

This video gives you an idea:

Caught off-guard yesterday by a plan to pursue federal stimulus bonds to build the Dome parking lot, some city council members wanted more information before authorizing staff to pursue the project. That led City Manager Eric Anderson and some key staff members to quickly hold a presentation at the council’s Economic Development Committee just before last night’s regular council meeting.

The video was just part of the presentation that revealed other interesting details about the parking structure eyed for the proposed building site — at 27th and D Streets on the Dome’s existing lot.

It would be a pre-fabricated steel and concrete modular parking structure that some city officials likened to a big rector set. The garage – which would erect one parking level above the existing lot — could be quickly installed within a few months to create from 550 to 700 additional parking stalls, said Mike Combs, director of the city’s public assembly facilities.

“It goes up really quick,” Combs said.

As we reported today, the city council last night authorized the late addition of up to $9.4 million more in bonding capacity as part of bond issuance planned for city equipment and vehicle purchases in the coming two years.
Read more »


Edujobs numbers are questionable, but what about claims of saved cops and firefighters?

In my column today I looked into the origins of the claims about the federal Education Jobs Fund.

The $10 billion appropriation will be distributed to states roughly on a per capita basis and can be used to retain existing teachers, rehire those laid off or hire new teachers. Washington will get about $206 million and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray has said it will save the jobs of 3,000 state teachers who are facing layoffs.

While the exact number is questionable, given that state school districts are not planning significant layoffs for the upcoming school year, one specific claim about the other part of the federal help is even more squishy. That’s the $16 billion to increase federal sharing of Medicaid programs, traditionally a shared state-federal responsibility.

Washington was counting on that money to keep its current state budget in balance. When it appeared that it wouldn’t be coming, Gov. Chris Gregoire began preparing to make across-the-board cuts to all state budget items in the 3-to-4 percent range.

Somehow, the political rhetoric surrounding the Medicaid match money became a debate over police and firefighters. Read more »


Stimulus weatherization spending up

Washington’s spending of stimulus funds for low-income housing weatherization is back on track, state officials said today.

Since July 2009, state officials have upgraded more than 3,300 low-income housing units in Washington using nearly $30 million in stimulus money, according to a news release from Gov. Chris Gregoire’s office Monday.

The state’s progress qualifies it to start spending an additional $30 million that Washington was awarded for weatherization work last year, but which federal officials warned could be reallocated if the state failed to meet performance goals.

The state’s entire award of $59.5 million is expected to upgrade a total 7,000 homes with improvements such as energy efficient windows, new insulation and updated furnaces, all of which aim to reduce energy use.

The residential weatherization work was slow to start due to bureaucratic confusion about how to follow conflicting federal and state wage requirements.

State officials said they weatherized 186 homes with the stimulus money during the five-month period between July and the end of November.

In the five months since, they’ve used the stimulus money to complete work on an additional 3,100 units, according to the numbers released Monday.

See the governor’s press release below.

Read more »


Stimulus money: Washington got $4 billion; spent $827 million

I missed this morning’s meeting of GMAP (Government Management Accountability and Performance). It was at 8:30 a.m. and I guess I don’t check the governor’s Web site often enough.

But others were there.

Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Council has this post today.

It’s worth reading. There are some good tidbits.


Federal stimulus can pay for bus drivers, as well as buses

A couple days ago I posted an item that said there was a bill working its way through Congress that would let public transit agencies spend some of their federal stimulus money on bus driver salaries instead of just buses.

This news release from U.S. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington provides a bit more detail. They could use as much as 10 percent of their federal stimulus on operating expenses.

Many transit agencies across the country have been planning lay-offs, staff furloughs, and significant service cuts because of the strain on their budgets. Senator Murray’s language, will allow these agencies to use up to 10% of the $6.9 billion in formula grant funding received under the Recovery Act for operating costs.

Senator Murray has heard from transit agencies across the country who need support to cover costs and protect against cuts, including Pierce County Transit whose CEO reacted to today’s news:

"The inclusion of this amendment will allow Pierce Transit to keep valuable service on the street and jobs in our community, while addressing a 15 percent (nearly $10 million) decline in revenue," said Lynne Griffith, CEO of Pierce Transit.

Here’s the full news release from Murray:

Read more »


Washington gets $2.2 billion more in federal stimulus funds; this batch is mostly for Hanford

Gov. Chris Gregoire‘s office sent out this news release. It’s noteworthy because the total amount of money that Washington is getting from President Obama and Congress for economic stimulus will end up being somewhere between $8 billion and $10 billion.

We got about $2 billion in Medicaid. Another $1 billion for education. About $500 million for transportation projects. And this $2.2 billion for Hanford and energy stuff. Those are just the big pieces.

I think the Bonneville Power Administration is in line for about $3 billion more (I think that’s borrowing, not a straight appropriation) and most of the BPA money also could be put in Washington’s column. And there’s a smattering of other moneys all over the place. Some of it is going to local governments.

U.S. Department of Energy Awards Washington State $2.2 billion in recovery funds

Recovery funding will increase energy efficiency and technology and reduce consumption

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire today announced that the U. S. Department of Energy has awarded more than $2.2 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for Washington State energy recovery. Most of the investment will accelerate clean up efforts at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Richland.

Read more »