Monday, February 16, 2009
Here comes the money and the family fights begin
Sorry for dogging it this weekend and goofing off from the blog. There was The Tour of California, which started in Downtown Sacramento Saturday, and a very rainy and windy Sunday cooking with a chef in the Napa Valley.
Yes, the House and Senate passed the President’s Economic Stimulus Package. There were no Republican votes in the House and 3 critical votes in the US Senate and the Bill will be signed by President Obama tomorrow.
GOP votes or not, the passage of this bill so early in the President’s first 100-days is hugely significant and the President is not squandering his honeymoon period.
Far from it.
The President has worked with the Congress to pass significant healthcare for uncovered children, changes to environmental regulations and certainly the biggest economic package ever to come from the federal government.
Now that the feds are discharging the huge amount of capitol for a host of job-producing projects and programs – how will the money be disbursed, to whom, when and how the heck will anyone do any accounting for it? Not all of the details are included within the 1000 pages plus of House Resolution 1 (HR 1), the Economic Stimulus Bill.
As such, there is a brewing set of battles between states and states, states and cities, cities and cities and political posturing between infrastructure and transportation projects to rank highest and ready for funds. The speed at which the money flows is absolutely critical and President Obama has stressed this before he moved into The White House.
As always, politics will make this tricky and posturing is likely to slow the badly needed infusion of cash. The President’s team is going to have to pressure and provide both incentives for rapid expenditure and disincentives for those bogging down the appropriation of the stimulus money.
One of the ways the President had hoped to unstuck some of the battles is to release portions of money directly to local jurisdictions and avoid traditional battles for fair share and states lopping out as much as they can before leaving the remaining breadcrumbs for local governments. It is as much of a statement of the changing relationship between the federal government and local government as you can get.
Yes, there are battles between and even in local jurisdictions for how money will get spent and for which projects. However, the ability for local governments to allocate their money to the projects they choose is always going to be better than having yet another layer of bureaucracy and politics at the state level before having a crack at funding local projects.
States still will get the majority of the money flowing from the federal government and that money will go through each states’ process to fund state owned and controlled projects before flowing down to the locals.
The President’s inclusion of some direct appropriation to local government helps on speeding spending – it is one less level of problems and politics in getting projects funded, jobs created and investment done.
It is also another indication of the changing relationship and respect between federal and local governments and what maybe possible for counties, cities and special districts (including school districts) in the days to come.