ARLINGTON, Va., Jan. 16 – At an urgency-called meeting with local government officials in his eighth district of Northern Virginia, Rep. Jim Moran laid out how $500 billion in federal economic stimulus funds will be rushed to infuse the withering national economy with job-creating infrastructure and related projects.
He said the bill, the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009,” will be marked up by the House Wednesday, and sent to the Senate with the aim of having it on the new president’s desk by Feb. 1. President-elect Obama has said he wants to have such a bill signed into law by the first week of February.
Moran was scheduled to meet with Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine about how to implement the legislation following his noon meeting with the local officials.
Questions and comments to Moran from the local officials focused on two areas: 1. Whether restrictions on the flexibility permitted in the funds will inhibit their ability to have more than a one-time effect and, 2. Whether the existing institutional channels for receiving and disbursing the funds will be optimal.
Moran said learning of both concerns was extremely helpful to him, saying he will study them and take them to his House colleagues Wednesday.
Present at today’s meeting were the county manager of Arlington County and assistant city manager of the City of Falls Church, the superintendents of schools of both Arlington and Falls Church, members of the Arlington County Board and Falls Church City Council, and others.
The speed, urgency and scope of the enormous legislation, as Moran presented it, was breathtaking. He said 19 out of 20 of the nation’s leading economists agree that without the stimulus, that will also be supplemented by $250-300 billion in tax cuts, the national economy will veritably “shut down,” with up to four million jobs being lost in 2009 on top of the two million lost in 2008.
Arlington County Manager Ron Carlee told the News-Press following the meeting that he headed back to his office to immediately assess specific programs that could put the federal funds to work right away. They will be in the areas of transit, housing and environmental upgrades, he said.
Falls Church Assistant City Manager Cindy Mester said that near-term projects already approved by the City Council and Planning Commission for its Capital Improvement Projects calendar will be most likely to fit the profile of the kinds of programs that the federal funds will seek to target.
The goal is to retain or create jobs, Moran stressed.
Moran said his was the first meeting by any congressman of its kind, given the proximity of his district to the national capital, and the speed and urgency of the legislation.
Chris Zimmerman, member of the Arlington County Board, noted that the decision to funnel the funds through existing, well-vetted agencies and governments, might not produce optimum results because, he noted as an example, the Bush administration skewed the structure of transportation agencies against public transit development, for example.
Moran said that he was disappointed that there was only $10 billion in the plan for transit, compared to a $30 billion for highway construction and repairs.
David Snyder of the Falls Church City Council also expressed concern that current institutional structures, such as the Virginia state government, are also tilted against the needs of urban transportation development.
The other concern was for the inflexibility of funds to have more than a one-year impact on local governments, making them reluctant to create new jobs that they can’t sustain. The current bill does not allow for supplanting funds, a flexibility that would be critical for local governments to make best use of the funds for sustainable growth.
All components of the bill can be viewed at www.recovery.gov, Moran said.