PI Original Adam Doster Friday February 13th, 2009, 11:41am

A Tour Through The Final Stimulus Package

Congress is all set to vote on the committee-approved economic recovery package today, and it looks like most Illinois Republicans won't be swayed by President Obama's trip to Peoria. Yesterday, we noted that Mark Kirk was still voting no. The Daily Herald follows up today
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Congress is all set to vote on the committee-approved economic recovery package today, and it looks like most Illinois Republicans won’t be swayed by President Obama’s trip to Peoria. Yesterday, we noted that Mark Kirk was still voting no. The Daily Herald follows up today with news that Reps. Judy Biggert, Peter Roskam, and Don Manzullo will join their North Shore colleague. Manzullo’s statement sums up their disgust:

U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo, a Rockford-area Republican, was disappointed by the final deal, saying it doesn’t do enough to create jobs now.

“Unfortunately they cut all of the benefits that would have helped everyday Americans,” said Manzullo spokesman Rich Carter. “They’ve actually made a bad bill worse.”

Manzullo is correct that the bill is far from perfect. But that’s because House Democrats needed to drag along Sen. Ben Nelson and three “moderate” Republican senators to avoid a filibuster. And contrary to his assertion, the package includes a bevy of provisions that economists believe will prove stimulative and which progressives can cheer. Here’s an update on some of the items we’ve been tracking over the past few months.

State aid: As we wrote yesterday, the bulk of the flexible state aid initially included in the House bill was cut. But there is one caveat that Ed Kilgore catches: “The 'flexible state funding' portion … was restored to $8 billion (as opposed to $24 billion in the House bill), in part through a reduction in the 'state incentives grant' program, aimed at boosting state education goals, to levels below either bill ($5 billion).” As a result, state governments won’t have to fire as many state employees or cut as many social services for working people in the face of devastating deficits. The bill also included $87 billion in Medicaid assistance, which will prevent heavy medical cuts to the state’s most vulnerable while generating more business activity, job growth, and wage hikes.

Food stamps: Just as the demand for food stamps surges, the stimulus assures that those on the rolls (not to mention the government) will get more bang for their buck. Those on food stamps will see their monthly benefits increase by 13 percent, allowing people more leeway to spend on other necessities. Nonetheless, expect Rep. Dan Lipinski to gripe about this one.

Child tax credit: The committee expanded the Child Tax Credit to 13 million additional children in low-income working families. In Illinois, that number rounds out to 534,000 kids under the age of 17. I thought it was Republicans who liked tax credits? (H/T Capitol Fax)

Unemployment insurance: Former Speaker Hastert might not understand the stimulative effect of unemployment insurance, but Democrats in Washington do. If passed, the bill will extend unemployment benefits through the rest of the year and will increase them by $25 a week.

Neighborhood stabilization fund: Mike Lillis at the Washington Independent makes a good catch: the final compromise bill includes $2 billion for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. That’s far less than affordable housing advocates had been pushing for, but it should create roughly 2,000 jobs in the Land of Lincoln and $7 million in additional tax revenue from the rehabbed homes.

Transit: Like the housing fund, transit was not prioritized as highly as many smart growth activists had hoped. That being said, Congress will likely approve $9.3 billion for Amtrak and high-speed rail programs and $8.4 billion for general public transportation grants. Greg Hinz estimates the CTA could net $400 million for new capital projects: “just a small slice of what they say are their unmet needs for new equipment, stations and the like.”

Education: Dana Goldstein has the best numbers on the schools front. While a good deal was cut in committee—school tech funding, construction funding, charter school improvement resources—$106 billion was earmarked to plug budgets, fund special education, and repair schools. That’s valuable for school districts and the students they serve.

There’s lot more in the bill, as well. Sam Stein has a good round-up of 15 expenditures that seem likely to have “the greatest potential to fundamentally re-shift the nation’s economy.” And we'll try to bring you more Illinois-specific figures once they're available.

Meanwhile, the question remains: How will Aaron Schock vote?

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