The U.S. Senate passed its version of the stimulus package as pushed by the Obama Administration. It was no surprise that both of Washington's Democratic Senators voted in favor of the $838 billion measure. The House version of the bill is $19 billion less and the difference between the two will be hammered out in Conference committee.
Sen. Patty Murray released the standard media press release today, lauding the legislation while outlining the juiciest bits of bacon being brought back to this state. What must be particularly galling to the local environmentalist constituency is up to $495 million which is supposed to be used for roads, bridges and highway infrastructure.
The text of the Senator's statement is below."Our state is hurting," said Senator Murray. "It's hard to find anyone in our state who doesn't have a friend, a neighbor, or a family member who hasn't recently lost a job or isn't struggling just to get by. Last week, we saw job fair lines that stretched around Qwest Field even as companies continued to announce layoffs throughout our state. Each day more jobs are being cut, small businesses are closing their doors, homes are being lost and families are making new sacrifices just to make ends meet.
"Washingtonians are calling out for bold and immediate action. Today we answered.
"The bill we passed today is not perfect and it's not the only step needed to fix a badly broken economy. However, it does invest in proven ways to get workers back on the job and our economy back on track. This bill will help fix our crumbling roads, rebuild our aging energy grid, and give working families more of their paycheck. It will also make long-term investments that will help our state and country compete in a global economy.
"Our economy won't turn around overnight and there are still hard times ahead. But we also need to remember how hard it is for the millions of Americans who, through no fault of their own, are waking up each morning without a job. This bill is about getting them back to work and returning security and confidence to the American people.
"As we move forward, I urge my colleagues to continue to work together, to put aside their differences and stay focused on sending President Obama a bill that creates jobs and gets commerce going again. Delay and inaction are not options the American people can afford right now."
Below are some of the critical investments in Washington state Senator Murray worked to make in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009:
Tax Cuts: Includes income tax cut of up to $1,000 for Washington workers and their families.
Highways: Includes more than $495 million to improve Washington state roads, highways, and bridges and create jobs. Also includes $5.5 billion for nationwide competitive grant program for projects of major national or regional importance.
Transit: Includes over $200 million in new transit funding for Washington state to keep residents moving and create jobs.
Ferries: The bill includes a $60 million nationwide grant program to fund ferry and ferry terminal upgrades.
State Support (State Stabilization Fund): Will provide Washington with $648 million to help with education and other services in the face of deep budget deficits. The state can use this funding for a number of different purposes including funding higher education tuition assistance and a variety of K-12 services.
Unemployment Insurance: Will give another $100 per month in unemployment insurance benefits to 404,000 workers in Washington, Will provide extended unemployment benefits to an additional 44,000 laid-off workers.
Worker Training: Includes over $64 million to train unemployed Washington state workers and get them the skills needed to embark on new careers.
Hanford: Includes $6.4 billion for Environmental Management (EM) nationwide. Historically, Hanford Nuclear Reservation receives a significant portion of EM funding. This funding would help save or create jobs at Hanford, would accelerate cleanup efforts, and would save taxpayers millions in future cleanup costs.
BPA: Includes $3.25 billion in additional borrowing authority so that the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) can modernize the region's power grid and bring alternative energy sources online. BPA is the largest marketer of wholesale electricity in the Pacific Northwest. This funding will mean that BPA can improve their aging transmission lines so that new sources of energy can be made available to customers and new green jobs can be created throughout the state.
Weatherization: Includes over $36 million to help weatherize homes and businesses throughout our state, creating jobs, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and lowering energy bills.
Medicaid: The bill includes $2.02 billion for Washington state to ease the burden of rising Medicaid costs.
Food Stamps: This bill will provide an additional $246 million for struggling Washington state families to afford food. This is an immediate stimulus for our economy and moral obligation in these difficult times.
Law Enforcement: This bill will provide Washington state with over $22 million for Byrne Justice Assistance Grants to support state and local law enforcement crime-fighting efforts. Will also include $1 billion nationwide for COPS grants that will help us avoid laying off police officers in our state.