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Eye On Olympia

Posts tagged: Obama

Sen. Murray: Stimulus package was best Congress could do, but will take time to work…

The $787 billion economic stimulus bill to be signed tomorrow by President Obama “is not the end of what we need to do,” U.S. Sen. Patty Murray said Monday.

She said the package, which includes billions for transportation, education, unemployment benefits and other help, was the best compromise on a controversial plan. But more remains to be done, she said, to shore up the banking industry and deal with the rapid increase in home foreclosures. Members of Congress have been warned that Obama’s budget proposal, to be released soon, will be a tough budget “in terms of cutbacks,” she said.

Murray was in Olympia Monday, meeting with Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, House Speaker Frank Chopp and other state officials.

The plan will help state budget writers somewhat. It includes $2 billion in new money for Medicaid, $2 billion for cleanup work at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, as well as $812 million in state stabilization money, most of it for education.

“That was a significant debate,” Murray said of the stabilization money. Key lawmakers, she said, were concerned about accountability over how that state money gets spent.

“There was a lot of concern among them about sending money out to the state that wasn’t going to be accountable, and having, a year from now, midnight basketball thrown back at us if that’s what the money was spent for,” she said.

And with the state wrestling with a budget shortfall estimated at at least $6 billion, Murray said that state lawmakers will still have tough choices to make. Lawmakers were clearly hoping for more state dollars, she said, but are grateful for the federal help nonetheless.

Some $500 million in new cash for the state’s roads and bridges will be largely up to the state Department of Transportation and local transportation authorities to divide up, she said.

But Murray urged patience, saying the money will take time to work its way into the economy.
“I think my worst fear is people are going to think things are better next Friday,” she said. Some economists, she cautioned, say that the stimulus might not start turning around the economy until the end of the year.

“But the alternative of doing nothing,” she said, “we would see an impact almost immediately.



White House: what’s in the Obama stimulus plan for WA…

The White House has posted a list of what President Obama’s stimulus plan would mean for Washingtonians.

It doesn’t detail some of the major investments in education and transportation infrastructure that’s being planned. It’s more of a consumer’s-eye-view of the plan.

From it:


Creating or saving 79,700 jobs over the next two years. Jobs created will be in a range of industries from clean energy to health care, with over 90% in the private sector. [Source: White House Estimate based on Romer and Bernstein, “The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.” January 9, 2009.]

Providing a making work pay tax cut of up to $1,000 for 2,450,000 workers and their families. The plan will make a down payment on the President’s Making Work Pay tax cut for 95% of workers and their families, designed to pay out immediately into workers’ paychecks. [Source: White House Estimate based on IRS Statistics of Income]

Making 67,000 families eligible for a new American Opportunity Tax Credit to make college affordable. By creating a new $2,500 partially refundable tax credit for four years of college, this plan will give 3.8 million families nationwide – and 67,000 families in Washington – new assistance to put college within their reach. [Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of U.S. Census data]

Offering an additional $100 per month in unemployment insurance benefits to 404,000 workers in Washington who have lost their jobs in this recession, and providing extended unemployment benefits to an additional 44,000 laid-off workers. [Source: National Employment Law Project]

Providing funding sufficient to modernize at least 138 schools in Washington so our children have the labs, classrooms and libraries they need to compete in the 21st century economy. [Source: White House Estimate]

Hat tip: Jerry Cornfield.

For those wanting a historic souvenir: How to get a flag flying over the state capitol today…

In honor of the inauguration of President Obama, Washington state’s Secretary of State is selling U.S. flags that are being flown at the state capitol today. (Yup, there’s some person who’s going to be busy hauling flags up and down all day. Really.)

You can buy the 3-foot by 5-foot flags for $14 if you pick them up at the Secretary of State’s front desk, or they’ll mail you one for $17.25.

“People just snatch them up,” said Dave Ammons, a spokesman for Secretary of State Sam Reed. Each comes with a certificate, state seal, and Reed’s signature. Any proceeds go to thestate capitol historical furnishings fund.

If you’re interested, call Suzette Black at (360) 902-4151.

Presidential inauguration: the view from the state capitol…

The capitol rotunda and hallways were like a ghost town this morning, as staffers and lawmakers crowded around TVs to watch the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

In the darkened state Senate, about a dozen lawmakers sat at their desks, peering up at a big-screen projection on the wall. Up in the public galleries overhead, dozens of visitors also watched in silence.

Below, in the Democratic caucus room, exuberant senators laughed as Chief Justice John Roberts and Obama stumbled over the oath of office. Then they cheered.

“I think we’re entering a more hopeful period,” said Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane. As he watched the nation’s first African-American president sworn in, Marr said, he thought of the racial dark days of the OJ verdict and Rodney King beating.

“To think that we would stand up this day a few short years later is pretty amazing,” he said.

Sen. Bob Morton, R-Kettle Falls, watched in his office.

“I had a little lump in my throat for those who’d worked so hard otherwise,” he said of the Democratic president’s victory. “It would have been more joyful the other way.”

In the House Republican caucus room, beneath portraits of Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln, a few lawmakers and staffers sat in silence, watching a projection TV. Nobody spoke.

Across the chamber, people were crammed into the standing-room-only House Democratic caucus room, where a sheet cake waited on a staffer’s desk. “Go Obama!” it read.

Lawmakers, some wiping away tears of happiness, looked up at the screen. Outside, a toddler squealed with delight and wheeled a stroller around the abandoned floor of the House of Representatives.

Gregoire’s budget plan: “the nightmare before Christmas” for the social safety net?

In Friday morning’s paper:

Before unveiling her budget plan Thursday, Gov. Chris Gregoire glanced around the crowded room.

“Before we begin,” she said, “I’d like to ask all of you to remove your shoes and take them outside. Particularly boots.”

That was the first and last joke of the somber 45-minute presentation, as Gregoire laid out a no-new-taxes proposal for deep state budget cuts to close an unprecedented $5.7 billion budget shortfall over the next two years.

“I hate it,” Gregoire said of her budget plan. “Nothing went untouched.”

Among the proposed cuts:

-halting nearly $700 million in planned cost-of-living raises for state workers and teachers for two years,

-cutting the Basic Health Plan, a state health insurance program for the working poor, by 42 percent,

-laying off more than 2,400 state workers,

-at least a 12 percent across-the-board budget cut at the state’s four-year colleges,

-a 6 percent cut for community colleges,

-cutting community mental health and chemical dependency services by $53 million,

-doing away with health care and small monthly checks for more than 20,000 people deemed unemployable, often due to mental health problems. At least 2,000 of those people are in Spokane.

-and cutting money for new affordable housing in half.

The depth of the cuts stunned social service advocates, labor leaders and others.

“Some of these programs really are the most extreme form of safety net,” said Nick Federici, a lobbyist for human services groups. “To us, this really is the nightmare before Christmas.”

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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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