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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Officials peg 75,000 Washington state jobs to stimulus bill

The proposed 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 through a growing recession. “We desperately need help and we need it now,” Gregoire said during a joint press conference with Murray. Although some details of the legislation were still being ironed out, Murray said Washington state would receive about $500 million for roads, highways and bridges, $175 million for mass transit projects, and could compete for some $60 million being set aside for ferry projects. She also thought the Hanford Nuclear Reservation would get about a third of the $6 billion being allocated for major environmental cleanups. The Bonneville Power Administration would have an extra $3.25 billion in borrowing authority which it could use to expand its transmission grid. BPA borrows money from the federal government and it pays back through money for 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 insurance payments. School districts will be able to get a share of some $53 billion set aside to help with education projects, teacher salaries and school repairs. A payroll tax cut for most workers would also go into effect shortly after the bill is passed by Congress and signed by President Obama, 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 no one really knows what the shortfall is. It was put at $5.7 billion in November, but 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., both voted for an earlier version of the stimulus bill and are 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 would 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 still being made throughout the afternoon Thursday, 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 to Boise on Thursday, because of reports a vote was to be taken sometime during the day. Spokesman John Foster said Minnick also “has many of the same concerns” as he had with the first version.
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