Trying to kick-start the state’s lagging economy, Gov. Chris Gregoire on Thursday unveiled a $1.2 billion proposal that includes more than $90 million in buildings at Spokane-area colleges, repaving local highways, and $15 million more for the North Spokane Corridor.
“We can quickly create thousands of new jobs this year and next by accelerating nearly $1 billion in public works projects,” the governor said in a written statement. “The plan will create a legacy of roads, schools and green-collar jobs to thrust our state firmly into the 21st century.”
The plan includes $427 million in construction projects that Gregoire says are ready to break ground within the next few months, if lawmakers approve. She also wants to spend another $390 million on ready-to-go transportation projects.
The plan — plus the 1,400 state-funded transportation projects already underway – will mean about 20,000 new jobs over the next two years, the governor said.
About a third of the money — $400 million — would come from Washington’s $4 billion unemployment insurance trust fund, which Gregoire’s office said yesterday could pay 20 months of unemployment checks.
Those checks currently top out at $541 a week; Gregoire wants to add $45 to that. She also wants to tap the unemployment fund to pay for “a temporary, across-the-board tax reduction” for employers.
-Gregoire also wants to:
-expand eligibility for training benefits, a stipend that unemployed people can get while retraining or going to school. As things stand now, the benefits are typically available only to dislocated wokers. Gregoire wants to allow such payments for disabled workers, veterans and low-income people.
-expand the “shared work” program, which pays unemployment benefits to workers whose hours have been reduced, but who are still on the job.
-perhaps make broader changes, including more worker benefits and permanent tax reductions for businesses.
Gregoire’s plan comes as Democrats in Congress are finalizing their own, much-larger economic stimulus plan. The $850 billion federal plan is expected to include $300 billion in tax cuts. Among the proposals: a $3,000 tax credit for businesses that create or preserve jobs.