The $787 billion question: How do we get our hands on economic-stimulus cash?

The $787 billion question: How do we get our hands on economic-stimulus cash?-attachment0

Local governments should collaborate in applying for and using federal tax dollars that will come to Western North Carolina through the just-signed federal stimulus package and be cautious in budgeting for the cash, Rep. Heath Shuler said Thursday afternoon.

“If we work together, we can take advantage of the opportunity we have,” he said.

Shuler addressed a crowd of about 220 people gathered at the Renaissance Asheville Hotel for a “stimulus workshop” organized by Asheville engineering firm McGill Associates in conjunction with the Land-of-Sky Regional Council, Southwestern Commission, Isothermal Planning and Development Commission and the N.C. High Country Council of Governments. The audience included county commissioners, mayors, town-board members and a host of other government officials from across the region.

Shuler, one of only a handful of Democrats in the U.S. House to vote against President Barack Obama‘s $787 billion stimulus package, was in the unusual position of explaining his vote against the bill while at the same time stressing the need for Western North Carolina to get its “fair share” of the estimated $6.1 billion that’s headed to North Carolina.

“I didn’t vote for it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t support some areas of spending,” said Shuler, who favors spending on infrastructure projects, such as roads and water lines, but opposes spending on programs that he said don’t stimulate the economy. Shuler said that 34,000 jobs are created for every $1 billion spent on infrastructure. Those jobs, in turn, have a ripple effect in the economy, he added. Shuler said he also opposed the bill because of its detrimental effect on the national debt.

Most of the money from the stimulus package will be filtered through the state, but some money will come directly to local county governments and municipalities, Shuler said. He cautioned local governments to be careful in budgeting the cash.

“Don’t expect more, because you could get less,” he said.

“We’re prepared to fight for our fair share,” said Shuler, noting that existing funding formulas for apportioning state spending have historically meant that Western North Carolina hasn’t received all the money it’s due.

There could be more money coming. “I feel there’s going to be another stimulus package,” one focused solely on infrastructure, Shuler said. He didn’t have details, but said the idea is floating around Washington, D.C.

Other speakers Thursday represented government agencies, such as the N.C. Division of Water Quality and the N.C. Department of Transportation, and offered details about how to get projects funded.

— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor

SHARE

9 thoughts on “The $787 billion question: How do we get our hands on economic-stimulus cash?

  1. firelady

    I find Shuler’s rationale for voting against the stimulus bill to be either disingenuous/ideological or demonstrating a shocking paucity of knowledge of public finance and economics.

    The funding he states would not directly stimulate the economy, what I assume is meant to be direct job stimulus, would in fact go to supporting the state budgets required to keep money flowing within the economy. State and local governments must have the fiscal and organizational capacity to spend the stimulus money- this ability will be severely limited if budget cuts result in the loss of basic services and programs.

    I am extremely disappointed in his choice and rationale.

  2. Marc McIntosh

    “I didn’t vote for it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t support some areas of spending,” said Shuler, who favors spending on infrastructure projects, such as roads and water lines, but opposes spending on programs that he said don’t stimulate the economy. Shuler said that 34,000 jobs are created for every $1 billion spent on infrastructure. Those jobs, in turn, have a ripple effect in the economy, he added. Shuler said he also opposed the bill because of its detrimental effect on the national debt.

    34,000 jobs? Sounds like the program is designed just for State workers and once the project is done where will these 34,000 get the next job. It was my understanding that several years ago we gave our road repair job on tunnel road to a company from Texas. We should look at long term benefits, first of all what are our needs not our wants. Relief for our elderley for Meds. grocery stores should offer senoir citizen discounts, ect….
    Our Support and offered labor for our local farmers, so to help put food on our tables.Open up the stock yards. Food suppliers and locals should be able to buy local beef, poltery, veg. fruit. Give people willing to harvest supplies on there land, a property tax break. We should think within the box for our state. Take the package and support your people.

  3. bobaloo

    State and local governments must have the fiscal and organizational capacity to spend the stimulus money- this ability will be severely limited if budget cuts result in the loss of basic services and programs.

    Wait, what? How would budget cuts limit spending the stimulus?

  4. MusicLover45

    When can we run a real Democrat against Schuler??? He is more of a Republican than some of the real ones I know.

  5. John

    If you want stimulus money, just start making bad spending decisions and it will start raining down on you. Make more bad decisions and you get more money. Simple.

  6. guitarzan

    I don’t think there’s nothing wrong with Schuler think’in about Asheville and the needs of our State. We need to think about our homes and family’s and our ability to provide. I know that this Nation needs an extreme makeover, but this State and all of the other States make up this Nation. It all starts with the citizens or “people of little towns and big towns” all over. Our choices in life somewhere down the road effects in a little or big way how we as a Nation Under God can survive. May God Bless Our Nation and the people in it.

  7. DebateTeam1

    I am extremely pleased with Rep. Shuler’s stance and reasoning. First, he stood up for what he believes. You may not like his opinion but it takes a lot of courage to stand up against your own party. Same thing goes for the 3 republican senators who voted for the senate bill that was eventually passed. Agree or disagree this is independent thinking and courage.

    Second, Rep. Shuler was not against all spending – only the spending that he did not feel created sustainable jobs – these are jobs that would last beyond the allocated money that originally created the initial job. For instance building the new nursing building at AB-Tech has a life beyond the construction phase. It will employ construction workers, then teachers and maintenance people who will work in the building, and then the students will become workers in the healthcare industry. This is sustainability. Rep. Shuler was not against this type of funding or the funding that would go to help fund unemployment insurance programs at the state level and other necessary job functions that were running low on funds.

    What Rep Shuler said he was against was the indiscriminate allocation of money that created “make work” programs and the expansion of government social programs. The latter being a topic that should be debated and voted on in a stand-alone bill and not grouped into a bill that is supposed to be stimulus. You can agree or disagree on the need for these programs but it is not correct to call them stimulus actions. While they are necessary to fund, a dollar spent in this type of funding does not create sustainable jobs except for the government workers who administer the programs that distribute the monies.

    Rep. Shuler was correct to vote against this bill in the hopes of getting a better bill which is what he was hoping for. A better bill would have created immediate stimulus. One of the things to be considered in a better bill would have been to focus on small businesses. 50% of all Americans work in small businesses and small businesses create 60-80% of all net new jobs. How could small business be helped? Dollar for dollar tax credits on a use-it-or-lose-it basis. Tell them they get a progressive tax credit based on their annual revenues and that in order to get the credit they have to spend the money by August 2009. This means, for example, that a restaurant might get that new sign they need and hence employ a person at the local sign shop which in turn needs paint and materials which employs a person at the local paint/hardware store. Small businesses would put 100% of the stimulus to work immediately and why not – they get the tax credit and they get to keep the thing the spent the credit on. No government intervention and dilution of the stimulus, no delay in getting the money to work. Small businesses employ people and people need (and want) jobs not just more unemployment insurance money. This is the type of thing we should be advocating for.

    Just because he voted against the stimulus (and the bank bailout and auto maker bailout, too, don’t forget) does not necessarily mean he was against all the things the bill represented. Be glad your representative is not a sheep who voted for a bill that no one had read and be glad he was standing up for the fiscal responsibility of our country.

    Unfortunately, there will be many more stimulus bills, auto maker bailout bills, and bank bailout bills before this recession/depression is over. Not all of them will be bad bills and I hope Rep. Shuler considers each one carefully as he has done with the past three. When a bill is presented that makes sense (like an infrastructure-only bill), I would venture to say you will get a different response from him and rightfully so.

    Something to consider.

  8. Bert

    Shuler’s thinking is essentially this: “I don’t have to answer to the Asheville liberals ’cause they don’t have the votes to beat me.”

    Please, let’s someone step forward in the primary and give him a good scare to knock him out of his “Mountain Values” complacency. David Gantt? Patsy Keever? I wasn’t aware that obstructing economic recovery and denying civil rights were mountain values, but Shuler seems to think they are.

    Of course, if he tries to run for senate we better get a better Democrat to beat him in the primary. If Obama can win this state, then we certainly don’t have to settle for the likes of Shuler.

  9. Ashevegasjoe

    For all of you who refer to contract jobs as make work, would you rather have a job, or none at all? If the job is only a bridge to another job, it’s employment. And, many unemployed Americans would prefer a two-year job to unemployment. Also, these jobs include work for engineers, architechs, and project estiimators–many of whom are unemployed due to the housing fiasco. Shuler should refuse all the money if he is opposed to the bill. He tries too hard to appease both liberals and conservatives, while having no clear line of thinking himself.

Leave a Reply