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Murray, Gregoire say stimulus would deliver

Fri., Feb. 13, 2009

Washington stands to gain jobs, dollars, they say

The stimulus package before Congress could create or save 75,000 jobs in Washington state, a preliminary White House analysis says.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., mentioned the job figure Thursday afternoon as she and Gov. Chris Gregoire praised the legislation as an important step in helping the state and the nation survive the recession.

“We desperately need help, and we need it now,” Gregoire said during a press conference with Murray.

Although details of the legislation were being ironed out, Murray said Washington state would receive about $175 million for mass transit projects and $500 million for roads, highways and bridges. The state could compete for some $60 million set aside for ferry projects, and she thought Hanford Nuclear Reservation would get about a third of the $6 billion allocated for major environmental cleanups.

The Bonneville Power Administration would gain nearly $3.3 billion in borrowing authority, which it could use to expand its transmission grid. The BPA borrows money from the federal government that it pays back through power sales and transmission fees.

The state also is in line for some $2 billion in Medicaid payments, and laid-off workers would get an extra $100 a month in their unemployment checks. School districts will be able to get a share of $53 billion set aside for education projects, teacher salaries and repairs.

A payroll tax cut for most workers would go into effect shortly after Congress passed the bill and President Barack Obama signs it, Murray said.

Gregoire said it was impossible to say how much the stimulus package would ease the state’s projected budget shortfall. One problem is that the shortfall, put at $5.7 billion in November, has grown with each passing month. When the next projection comes out in March, “we may not get good news,” she said.

Murray and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., voted for an earlier version of the stimulus bill and were expected to vote yes on this one. Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, R-Idaho, voted no and have not announced that they will change their votes.

But the bill goes first to the House of Representatives, which could begin debate as early as 7 this morning.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers voted no on the previous version and will probably vote the same way on the newer version, “based on what we’ve heard,” spokesman Destry Henderson said. Most members of Congress haven’t seen the legislation, because changes were being made Thursday afternoon, he added.

Rep. Walt Minnick, D-Idaho, also voted no on the earlier House version. Minnick canceled a planned trip with Vice President Joe Biden to attend the Special Olympics in Boise on Thursday, because of reports a vote was to be taken during the day. Spokesman John Foster said Minnick “has many of the same concerns” as he had with the first version.

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