Beshear releases general plan for use of federal stimulus dollars

Gov.  Steve Beshear released a general overview of how Kentucky will use the estimated $3 billion the state expects to receive under the federal economic stimulus package. 

Beshear released the breakdown following a press conference this afternoon with Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson about the plan. 

The governor plans to create a state Web site to track the spending similar to what is proposed on the federal level for the stimulus package. 

“These are tax dollars and public deserves to know how their money is being spent,” Beshear said in a statement.

The initiative Beshear is calling “Kentucky at Work” includes – 

  • Medicaid: Kentucky’s Medicaid program will receive about $990 million over the next two years. The program currently faces a $232 million deficit this year, while demand for services is increasing by about 3,000 people a month due to the economy.
  • Health and welfare: Kentucky will receive about $272 million for areas like public housing, weatherization, child care, child support enforcement and homelessness prevention.
  • Education: Kentucky will receive about $924 million in stimulus money. Approximately $535 million will be used to preserve existing commitments to K-12 and higher education, as well as to continue efforts to hold down the cost of tuition. The remaining $389 million, administered through the Kentucky Department of Education, will go to Title 1, Head Start, technology and school lunch programs and other programs that help families in crisis.
  • General Fund: Kentucky will receive nearly $120 million to help address critical shortfalls in priority areas and mitigate against even deeper cuts over the next two fiscal years.
  • Job training and public safety: The commonwealth will receive $66 million in job training and workforce development dollars. In the area of public safety, Kentucky will receive about $30 million to combat violence against women and to support criminal justice efforts at both the state and local levels.
  • Roads and Bridges: Kentucky will receive $421 million for highways and bridges. Gov. Beshear and legislative leaders have been working together on a road plan that contains projects that meet the federal government’s requirement that 50 percent of those funds be obligated within 120 days. Projects must be shovel-ready.
  • Transit: About $50 million will be allocated for transit.
  • Water and Sewer lines: Kentucky will receive about $71 million for water and sewer infrastructure.
  • Community Development: The state will be allocated some $12 million for local community development block grants.
  • Energy Projects: About $63 million will be allocated to Kentucky for energy initiatives.

Beshear to talk about stimulus plan today in Louisville

Gov. Steve Beshear will be talking more today about Kentucky’s share of the recently passed federal economic stimulus package at a press conference with Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson

The press conference follows Beshear’s trip to Washington D.C. this past weekend for the National Governors Association winter conference that included meetings with President Barack Obama. 

Some details about what Kentucky can expect to see from the funding package have already come out, including an anticipated $421 million for the construction of roads and bridges. Lawmakers are currently working on the state’s road plan that will include designations of how that money should be spent. 

Obama told governors this week that their states could begin seeing money to help offset Medicaid costs as soon as today, which could amount to as much as $1 billion over the next two years, according to James Carroll with the Courier-Journal.

The state is also looking for relief in the area of unemployment benefits, and Beshear told reporters Tuesday that he hopes to see an extension of the benefits period and a $25-increase in the weekly cap on benefits, all paid for with federal dollars. 

Look for more information about the stimulus package at the 2 p.m. EST press conference in Louisville’s Metro Hall.

Louisville bridges project won’t qualify for stimulus dollars

WHAS-11’s Mark Hebert is reporting today that the planned Ohio River bridges project at Louisville won’t qualify for funds available avunder the recently passed federal stimulus package. 

According to Hebert, none of the $421 million the state expects to receive for road and bridge projects under the stimulus plan will go to the multi-billion dollar bridges project in Louisville. 

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, a Louisville Democrat, told Hebert that the stimulus dollars will be directed toward projects that can be started and completed within two years. 

That likely means that another Ohio River bridge project – the Interstate 69 bridge planned at Henderson – won’t be seeing any funding from the stimulus packaage either. 

Local elected and business officials are pushing the Interstate 69 project that would give western Kentucky another interstate highway, but have place much of their emphasis to this point on the creation of a statewide transportation infrastructure authority to oversee and fund the project. 

Senate Bill 15, which would establish such an authority, has been filed by Sen. Dorsey Ridley of Henderson and has been assigned to the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee, but hasn’t received a hearing.

Several takes on the impact of the stimulus package on the states

Stateline.org this week has been asking various officials their thoughts on how much the federal economic stimulus package signed into law Tuesday by President Barack Obama will impact the economy on the state level. 

Today, the site turned to the head of the American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and an official with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to get their takes

Here’s the response from John Horsley, AASHTO’s executive director – 

Transportation funding in the bill will allow the states to increase their highway project contracting by 25 percent to 50 percent this year. Our state DOTs said they could spend $65 billion on more than 5,000 ready-to-go highway projects. The $27.5 billion is very helpful, but we could have done more. We are also disappointed that transit funding was not provided at the level proposed by the House.

On Tuesday, the site asked various economists from around the country about what the package will mean for state budgets. 

I found the response from Jerry Nickelsburg, a senior economist at UCLA Anderson Forecast which provides forecasts on the California economy, interesting. 

The decision making on the part of the states will be the determining factor. In some cases, the transfer from the federal government to state governments will simply substitute borrowing in the Treasuries market for borrowing in the muni markets. In other cases, states will use the funds to postpone cutting programs. In the latter situation the transfers may just serve to push the budget cutting out to the 2009/2010 fiscal year and only have a temporary impact. Thus it is difficult to quantify the efficacy of these transfers.

Those seem to be some of the same concerns House and Senate leaders along with Gov. Steve Beshear were trying to allay with language in the recent budget shortfall legislation dealing with any stimulus money. Continue reading

White House launches site to track specifics of stimulus package

The White House has launched Recovery.gov to help shed some more light on the economic stimulus plan signed into law today by President Barack Obama. 

The site provides a general breakdown of where the $787 billion called for in the plan is going to, a timeline on how the programs will progress and dollars will be spent and a state-by-state look at the impact on jobs saved or created in the next two years. 

You can also take a look at the full text of the bill passed Friday by Congress. 

Here’s the video message from the president about the new site – 

Guthrie among GOP members targeted by DCCC over stimulus package vote

U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, a Bowling Green Republican who began his first term in Congress last month, is among a group of GOP lawmakers targeted in a round of radio ads offered by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, according to the Washington Post. 

Chris Cillizza with the paper’s “The Fix” blog is reporting that the ads are running in 28 GOP-held House districts and are “aimed at scoring political points for the vote last week on Obama’s economic stimulus package.”

That vote fell strictly along party lines, with Republican lawmakers voting against it. 

DCCC executive director Brian Wolff told Cillizza that “Republicans’ champagne wishes and caviar dreams simply don’t connect with middle class families struggling to make ends meet and furious that their tax dollars are going to bail out banks, build schools in Iraq, or send American jobs overseas.”

Glenn Thrush with Politico.com also has the story, and reports that the DCCC is using a variety of ads to target GOP lawmakers, and has samples of each ad along with which lawmaker was targeted by which ad.  

From Politico.com, a sample ad using U.S. Rep. Christoper Lee of New York – 

The following ad is the districts of Representatives Michele Bachmann (MN-06), Brian Bilbray (CA-50), Joseph Cao (LA-02), Bill Cassidy (LA-06), John Fleming (LA-04), Brett Guthrie (KY-02), Leonard Lance (NJ-07), Christopher Lee (NY-26), Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO-09), and Tom Rooney (FL-16):

“Did you know Congressman Christopher Lee voted against economic recovery to immediately create and save over 390,000 New York jobs? Times are tough, tell Christopher Lee to put families before politics.”

Update, 10:10 p.m. …

Here is the official release from the DCCC about the ad campaign, called “Putting Families First.”

And a bit more from Politico.com

But many of the other members are untraditional targets, like Reps. Henry Brown (R-S.C.), John Fleming (R-La.), Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.), Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) and Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.). All these members hold solidly Republican seats, and aren’t expected to face tough races next year. 

There are certainly reasons to target members who, at first glance, appear to be safe in 2010. Several are freshmen who haven’t yet proven their viability in their home districts. Others won by surprisingly narrow margins last year. And the ads serve as a warning sign to House veterans like Bartlett (or Rep. Bill Young, another target), who could get caught napping if they’re not careful. 

Still, the fact that the DCCC is targeting Republicans in districts that have usually been afterthoughts for Democrats, suggests that this will be a cycle where the party will mostly be playing defense – and focusing on consolidating their gains over the past two election cycles.

Report: States should look to economic stimulus plan to plug budget holes

A report issued Monday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that the proposed federal economic stimulus package wouldn’t go very far in plugging a $350 billion gap in state budgets over the next 30 months. 

In an article today at Stateline.org, reporter Pamela Prah cites the report by the center as saying that although $300 billion would be sent to states under the plan but less of that could be used fo cover budget shortfalls than some are speculating. 

The report notes that about half of that amount couldn’t be used to cover the state’s bottom line. It would be used for infrastructure, which is part of a state’s capital budget, as flow-through money to local governments, or to initiate new programs. 

From the article – 

“It was never anyone’s intent [for the stimulus package] to entirely fill state budget gaps,” said Nick Johnson, who directs CBPP’s State Fiscal Project. “The assumption has always been that states would take some degree of action themselves. It’s only appropriate.” The CBPP estimates the House plan would help states close between $150 billion to $155 billion in shortfalls or less than half of the states’ $350 billion projected deficits.