February 20, 2009 in City

McMorris Rodgers says stimulus has benefits for state

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Although she voted against the federal stimulus package last week and still disagrees with many things in it, Cathy McMorris Rodgers said she wouldn’t tell governors to refuse money from the bill designed to boost the economy.

McMorris Rodgers, who is in Eastern Washington’s 5th District during a congressional recess, said the package has things that will help the state, such as expanded Medicaid payments, money for education and tax relief for lower income residents.

“It would be very difficult to say no to money from the federal government,” she said Friday in an interview with The Spokesman-Review. “I understand why they are excited to have that money.”

When the House passed the $790 billion stimulus bill last week, McMorris Rodgers called it a big disappointment and a “big spending piece of legislation that does nothing to create jobs.”

Friday she amended that, saying it didn’t do enough to create jobs or address the problems with the housing market. It does have about $500 million in road and bridge projects for Washington state, which she said was a wise investment but too small a part of the bill. There is also money for more cleanup at Hanford and expansion of the Bonneville Power Administrations electric grid, which will translate into jobs.

But while some $2 billion in Medicaid payments to Washington will help the state with its financial woes, it doesn’t address a long-term problem, she said.

“Where’s that $2 billion going to come (from) next year to fill the hole?” she said. “That’s a one-time appropriation from the federal government.”

She was also critical of the way the stimulus package was put together, with little time for the public or members of Congress to study all the provisions of the final bill, and no discussion of how it would be paid for. She said she doesn’t pretend to be an economist and is reluctant to predict what will happen next.

“I do think we need to do something to stabilize our economy,” she said. “The real question is making sure that we do it right and not just authorizing spending for the sake of spending more money, but that it’s actually targeted in a way that’s addressing the fundamental problems.”

Later this spring, the Defense Department is expected to release the specifications for a plane to replace the KC-135 tankers, McMorris Rodgers said. Those aging planes, the backbone of the military’s air refueling fleet, are at bases around the country, including Fairchild Air Force Base. Previous attempts to choose between Boeing and a consortium that includes Northrop and the European manufacturer of Airbus have failed.

“I have a lot of concerns that it’s going to be political,” McMorris Rodgers said. “I’m not sure how we’re going to get off first base.”

Recently, a high-ranking Democrat suggested the contract may have to be split between the two companies to move forward and build some planes. McMorris Rodgers said she has questions about the costs and practicality of doing that, and wouldn’t support it at this time.

“We’ll have two different fleets and we won’t get the efficiencies of scale,” she said. “It just doesn’t seem like the most efficient or effective way for us to move forward.”


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