The U.S. Congress has finally passed the Economic Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009. Despite a lot of partisan griping from the party that lost the White House in last year's election, we believe the legislation is badly needed.
First of all, is there anyone left out there who believes our economy is in good shape and doesn't need any help? Sure, this legislation isn't likely to solve our economic problems overnight, and we'd all like to make tweaks here and there, but it's critical to get started on a fix. If changes need to be made or more help is needed, Congress and the president can deal with that at that time.
It's disturbing to watch U.S. Senators arguing over relatively minor issues while hundreds of thousands of American jobs are being shed every month. Senators are almost entirely insulated from the economic realities the rest of us face, but there comes a time to take action and stop with the "opposition for the sake of opposition" approach. There will never be a bill -- especially one of this magnitude -- that everyone is going to agree on.
Along those lines, since when did the Senate need 60 votes to pass every piece of legislation? Those Senators in the minority seem to threaten a filibuster on virtually everything these days. That is an abuse of the process, and it needs to stop.
Back to the so-called "Stimulus Bill" -- here are some specific benefits of the bill that would go to help citizens right here in the state of Washington:
The bill provides for income tax cuts of up to $800 a year for Washington workers and their families.
The state of Washington would get nearly $500 million to improve our roads, highways, and bridges, thereby creating good jobs. It also includes $1.5 billion for a nationwide competitive grant program for projects of major national or regional importance.
Washington would get over $175 million in new transit funding to create jobs and keep state residents moving in a more "environmentally-friendly" fashion.
The bill offers a $60 million nationwide grant program to fund upgrading of ferries and ferry terminal upgrades. Again, more jobs.
It will give another $100 per month in unemployment insurance benefits for unemployed workers in Washington, and will provide extended unemployment benefits to many more laid-off workers.
There would be close to $64 million to teach and unemployed Washington state workers new skills that will help them find new careers.
The Hanford Nuclear Reservation cleanup would get more funding, as the state would share in $6 billion in nationwide Environmental Management (EM) money. Hanford receives a significant portion of EM funding. This deal would help save or create jobs at Hanford, would accelerate cleanup efforts, and would save taxpayers millions in future cleanup costs.
The legislation includes $3.25 billion in additional borrowing authority so the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) can modernize the region's power grid and bring alternative energy sources on-line. This funding will mean that BPA can improve their aging transmission lines so that new sources of energy can be made available to customers and new green jobs can be created throughout the state.
Washington would share in the more than $2 billion set aside nationwide to help states ease the burden of rising Medicaid costs.
These are all good causes. This legislation creates jobs, cuts taxes, and helps to rebuild our neglected infrastructure. Given our national economic crisis, why our own U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings voted "No" on this package -- along with every other Republican in the House of Representatives -- defies reason. We're very disappointed in him on this.
We're banking on this bill providing a lot of help. Our economy sure needs it.