State to Get $6.7 Billion from Stimulus Deal
by Larry Lange
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, February 14, 2009
The package contains more than $6.7 billion in direct funding for Washington programs, familiy tax cuts and money from which the state could draw for a number of projects, according to Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
The amount includes including $492 million in highway and bridge building money, $80 million for building weatherization programs, tax cuts of up to $800 for individual state workers and their families and first-time homebuyer credits, according to a list circulated by Murray. The measure includes more than $33 million in child care funding and $10.5 million for Head Start Programs in the state.
The total also includes nearly $2 billion in additional Hanford cleanup money and $3.25 in additoinal borrowing authority to modernize the Bonneville Power Administration grid.
Jill Satran, adviser to Gov. Christine Gregoire, said the White House estimated the measure will create 75,000 new jobs in the state during the next two years. Those will include construction jobs for roads; widening of Seattle's Mercer and Spokane Streets are eligible for some of the highway money, though replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct may not be.
Satran said it wasn't clear late Friday whether any of the money could be used to rebuild the Evergreen Point Bridge. But the state's ferry system could draw on a nation-wide $60 million grant fund to rebuild or maintain terminals, allowing state money to be spent on new vessels. The state can't get federal money for new boats because it requires that they be built in Washington shipyards.
"There's a good amount of stimulative investment here," said Sen. Maria Cantell, D-Wash., who joined her Democratic colleagues voting for the measure. She said some of the money will help stimulate solar and wind-power development and get the electricity to the biggest markets in Western Washington, helping ot "unleash a round of investment that's probably been stalled right now because of the credit crunch."Highway projects that get the stimulus money have to be completed within three years and priority must be given to work in economically-distressed communities. Washington's Department of Transportation, a main conduit for road money under the new law, would start getting money within a month after the bill becomes law.
The state, while it can spend the money on specific projects, won't be able to use it to plug longer-term holes in its own programs or budget, Satran said.
"I think we should all be very grateful to Congress for this," she said. "It is really going to be tremendously helpful to the state in terms of getting jobs out there. It isn't going to fix everyting but it will really help a lot."
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