Today Senate Democrats urged swift action on using federal stimulus funding coming into Michigan to create jobs and get people back to work. Senate Republicans, who oppose the federal legislation providing the funds, have recently proposed another layer of red tape by creating a new government subcommittee to study the process and slow down decisions on how or if the funds will be used.
Apparently the Senate Republicans, on a party line vote, just passed the creation of this new committee that Bishop was talking about the other day, and of course they want to slow down this process. They want to use the stimulus for "more tax cuts" and other unintended purposes, as has been already reported here and elsewhere. What, did you think that they want this plan to succeed? Republicans everywhere have indicated that they don't support the stimulus, and you can bet they will use this for their own political ends. Shouldn't even be a question given their behavior and comments about President Obama's efforts to revive the economy.
The Big Stall of 2009 has already started. Bill Hardiman is questioning the "fairness" of the distribution of funds for the transportation projects, and has played the "West Michigan doesn't get enough attention!" card. He will be "studying" the issue...
"I don't think it's balanced," Hardiman said. "I want to make sure it's balanced and we're going to have some input into the process."
... probably beyond the next scheduled two-week vacation, which is the beginning of April. These projects need to be approved soon so we can get to work creating jobs.
Before construction can begin, authority to spend the money has to go through the House and Senate. The bill submitted Thursday spends a total of $873 million in federal funds, but is just three pages long.
"We're ready to bid and if we want stuff to start by late April or early May, we need to get the legislation," (MDOT spokesman Bill) Shreck said.
Switalski, Whitmer and Prusi stood up today to protest this Republican action.
“I opposed creation of this redundant committee because I fear it will slow down job creation,” said Sen. Mickey Switalski, lead Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. “I challenge the new subcommittee to pass the federal stimulus package through the Legislature by April 3rd so the bids can be rewarded immediately and people can get jobs.”
“The last thing we need is another speed bump in the process of creating jobs in Michigan. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, we have to focus on getting people back to work,” said Sen. Gretchen Whitmer. “This stimulus funding is not like what the previous administration did with the banks bailout, where there was no accountability or transparency. There are formulas and checks and balances in place to make sure these resources are used as they were intended - to jumpstart Michigan’s economy.”
“Changing the rules to allow the Majority to pack the committees gives the perception that there could be some political games played with these stimulus funds,” said Senate Democratic Leader Mike Prusi.
The only question now is how much attention the traditional media will be giving this issue - not only here, but around the country. Other state legislatures are looking at using the funds for unintended purposes, enough so that the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has issued a warning.
A few governors and legislative leaders have suggested that their states might not accept the full amount of fiscal relief in the new recovery legislation or might use the funds to finance tax cuts or build up reserves, rather than spend them as Congress intended. Such actions could weaken the new law’s impact, and possibly even prolong the recession, by reducing the amount of stimulus injected into the economy.
They should have called it the "Bishop Alert". Stay tuned to see how our state Republicans will do their best to screw this up.