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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Stimulus has made a ‘huge’ difference

State already has spent more than $827 million

Jill Satran, Gov. Chris Gregoire’s executive policy adviser for stimulus spending, stands in her office Monday at the Capitol in Olympia.  (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Jill Satran, Gov. Chris Gregoire’s executive policy adviser for stimulus spending, stands in her office Monday at the Capitol in Olympia. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Rachel La Corte Associated Press

OLYMPIA – Transportation projects across Washington state are the most visible indication of more than $827 million in federal stimulus money that has been spent in the state so far this year.

But more significant is the money still working its way through the economy, said Jill Satran, Gov. Chris Gregoire’s main adviser on stimulus projects.

“It has made a huge impact on Washington state in light of the budget situation that we have,” she said, in reference to the Democrat-controlled Legislature’s use of stimulus money to help patch a $9 billion deficit.

“It has allowed us to provide services and to keep teachers employed, and all of those kind of things well beyond what we would have had the stimulus money not been available.”

But beyond helping ease the state’s budget woes, the money is pegged for various projects ranging from public security and emergency preparedness to education and water quality protection.

The state is readying for August deadlines to compete for stimulus money on broadband and high-speed rail projects.

“It’s all going to be pretty exciting stuff,” Satran said in an interview Monday.

Another competitive phase of stimulus spending that is on the horizon includes more than $4 billion in education grants for the states, tied to reform efforts.

In a separate press briefing Monday, Gregoire said Washington may not be able to compete for the first round of those “Race to the Top” education-reform grants, because the state seems unlikely to qualify for strict federal benchmarks regarding merit pay for teachers, charter schools, and other topics.

However, Gregoire said she and state schools Superintendent Randy Dorn are working on a proposal that, with legislative changes early next year, could put the state in a better position to compete for a second round of the education grants.

“I’ve already reached out to labor and to others, to say, ‘What can we do together to move this forward?’ ” Gregoire said.

Altogether, the state is to receive more than $4 billion in stimulus money. Another $2 billion is tagged for cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, and local governments are set to receive more than $1 billion.

The first money to arrive in the state was $200 million in March, to match money spent for Medicaid services to low-income people.

Unemployed workers have also seen a $25-a-week increase in their weekly benefit under the federal stimulus, on top of a state increase that was passed during the last legislative session.

So far, more than $365 million in stimulus money has been allocated for road projects.

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