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Rescue plan to see diverse uses

Citizen Staff Writer



Voting for the $787 billion federal stimulus package was a bitter pill that had to be swallowed to give a U.S. economy in critical condition a chance at recovery, U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva said recently.

Arizona’s share of the package should go to save and create jobs, at least partly offset a projected $3 billion state budget deficit next year, fund construction and repair roads and bridges, minimize extreme cuts to long-term care and education, and buttress food stamp, unemployment and health insurance programs, southern Arizona Democrat Grijalva said.

“Every indicator is that our economy continues to spiral down,” Grijalva said in releasing details of how the stimulus money is to be allocated in the state.

“I think that if we are honest with each other, this is a risk,” the lawmaker conceded.

But it was a risk that congressional Democrats felt they had to take because doing nothing to stimulate the economy was not an option, Grijalva said.

“I think the alternative of doing nothing would seriously encumber our children and grandchildren,” he said.

No House Republicans voted for the bill and three GOP senators crossed the aisle to support the plan.

The final version of the bill did not contain as much funding for education and health insurance reform programs as did the version passed by Democrats in the House earlier this month.

“We had to compromise those out,” Grijalva said.

Construction of the stalled Pima County-City Joint Courthouse Complex is one candidate for stimulus dollars, Richard Elías, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, said Monday.

The courthouse project was approved by voters in 2006, but work has stopped because the estimated price soared from about $76 million to the latest estimate of more than $156 million.

Besides construction jobs created, resumption of work on the courthouse could have spillover effects for suppliers of construction equipment and materials.

The county wants to build a wastewater treatment facility to replace the aging Ina Road wastewater plant to meet tougher Arizona Department of Environmental Quality standards for treated water released into the Santa Cruz River.

Using stimulus money to complete a Santa Cruz interceptor sewer line on the West Side could enable the county to start work on the new treatment plant sooner, Elías said.

“The interceptor sets up the Ina Road project,” Elías said.

Other benefits could be boosts to food stamps, unemployment insurance and subsidization of COBRA health insurance premiums to allow those who have lost their jobs to retain health insurance coverage, he said.

Elías said he hopes the Legislature will use some of the more than $800 million Arizona is to get in State Fiscal Stabilization Funds to minimize the impact on counties, cities and towns from drastic cuts made in the state budget, most of which will hit education and health care programs.

Some of the impact of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on Arizona:

• Jobs created or saved: about 70,000

• Roads and bridges infrastructure: about $522 million

• Total infrastructure: about $649 million

• Pell grant recipients: about 349,000

• College tax credits: about 75,000

Source: Office of the U.S. speaker of the House

Arizona unemployment statistics as of December 2008:

219,000, or about 6.9 percent

How the funds will be distributed:

• By formula:


State fiscal stabilization fund

Highway infrastructure investment

• By competition:

National Institutes of Health

National Science Foundation

Broadband access program

• By demand:

Premium subsidies for COBRA continuation coverage

Unemployment insurance

Education Pell Grants

Food stamps

Small business loans

• One-time automatic disbursement for payments of $250 to Social Security, veterans and Supplemental Security recipients

• By agency plan:

Cleanup of nuclear waste sites

National parks construction

Defense and veterans infrastructure programs

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