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another edition of All
Politics is Local, a non-partisan unbiased selection of
local political news from Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and
Imperial counties. In this issue we provide insight from
local community leaders on how the federal stimulus package may
directly impact us at the local level.
THE FEDERAL STIMULUS PACKAGE - WHAT'S IN IT FOR ME?
The daily dose
of news coverage on the federal economic stimulus package clearly
demonstrates the partisan atmosphere our public officials are faced
with in dealing with the national economic crisis. While we all
may have an opinion on what government should or should not be funding,
it is clear the federal package will have programs and tax incentives
totaling billions of dollars in funding to stimulate the economy.
We are tracking what's in the federal package that will directly impact
our local businesses, public agencies, and residents. We have
been talking with local leaders in order to drill down and get a local
feel for what programs in the federal package could be coming our way
to help jump start our own local economy.
The following comments are based on what is currently in the House or
Senate version of the economic stimulus package. The situation is
fluid. And, it is being hotly debated as we are about to go to
print. Needless to say, the following comments and the status of
the funding and the programs are subject to change.
We will keep following this story closely over the course of the
Meanwhile, we asked community leaders for their insight on what's in
the package to learn what's possibly in it for all of us in Orange,
Riverside, San Bernardino, and Imperial counties.
of this newsletter were printed in Busines and Politics: On the Record
by Christine Iger, 2/10/09, The Public Record, www.desertpublicrecord.com)
Sniff, Sheriff, Riverside County:
"The current package has approximately $4 billion in grants to
state and local law enforcement to hire officers and to purchase
equipment. This has been proposed to assist states under
extraordinary budget pressures, like our own, from laying off workers
in vital law enforcement services.
In contrast to earlier federal programs, this one is expected to last
only two years to avoid long term obligations. We do not know
whether in its final form if it will require the 25% local match in
funds that those earlier federal programs require, and we would
certainly hope not.
In another arena, this federal stimulus package will also allow
Riverside County to recoup some funds in its new regional detention
center project through energy funding, better leveraging our local
These are all very welcome within our criminal justice community, and
funding for hiring deputies and local police officers for our
communities is sorely needed now throughout Riverside County."
Bishop, Executive Director, Western Riverside Council of Governments:
Riverside County should see significant opportunities for job creation
from the Federal Economic Stimulus Plan as a result of funds for
highway infrastructure, energy efficiency and conservation programs,
workforce investment programs, and community development funding making
their way to the region. With one in every 10 workers in
Riverside County out of a job, and foreclosure rates being the third highest
in the nation, Riverside County is ripe to receive a significant
portion of the stimulus funds to retrain those out of work to find new
careers in growing fields such as green collar jobs, healthcare, and
City Manager, Indio:
to be successful in combating this recession, it is critical that the
federal economic stimulus money get into the economy swiftly. This
objective is conflicting with federal guidelines, which are slowing
down the money.
Since last November, the U.S Conference of Mayors identified $63
billion "ready to go" projects in more than 400 cities.
This means these projects received all environmental, planning and air
quality permits to qualify under the American Recovery and Investment
Bill of 2009. However, the federal government is looking to require
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) standards on top of the
already approved environmental clearances. Also, they are looking
to revise state, regional, and local planning documents all the while
making us adopt new air quality standards that we have yet to see.
The reality is that we need a speedier and less restrictive economic
stimulus plan. This money needs to get into the economy and out
of the hands of bureaucrats.
We have over 35 projects that are ready to go, which includes bridges,
road improvements, highway improvements, new public facilities, and
I've included the following to show you a few of the projects that
economic stimulus funds could put under construction.
(1) Increase capacity and install modern safety improvements at several
streets throughout the city, which is a part of our street
(2) Modernize and repair two bridges in the City, which includes
seismic retrofit of the Jackson Street Bridge at Union Pacific Railroad
and the bridge at Indio Boulevard at the Storm Channel.
(3) Install traffics signals at both east bound and west bound off
ramps at Monroe Street and Interstate 10 with resurfacing of Monroe and
its supporting ramps.
(4) Improve storm drain capacity by installing new line along Avenue 44
from Aztec Street to the White Water Storm Channel, which will resolve
water drainage issues along this important city arterial."
Jerry R. Patton,
Superintendent/President, College of the Desert:
"We are experiencing 15 - 20 percent increase in enrollments this
spring. People are returning to college to find or renew skills
they feel are needed to be competitive in this unusual economic crisis.
With the county's unemployment rate now at 9.3%, many county residents
are desperate for work. However, community colleges are reaching their
maximum capacity to serve this large increase in enrollments. The
provisions of the federal stimulus package could help community
colleges to leverage their capacity and ability to assist in the effort
to rebuild our economy.
Specifically, H.R. 1 provides:
(1) $39 billion to local school districts and public colleges and
universities, distributed through existing state and federal formulas;
$15 billion in incentive grants to states as a reward for meeting key
education performance measures; and $25 billion to states for other
high-priority needs, such as public safety and other critical services,
which may include education.
( 2) $15.6 billion for Pell grants, which will increase the maximum by
$500 in the 2009-2010 academic year and by $500 in the 2010-2011
( 3) $6 billion to improve and modernize higher-education facilities.
(4) $750 million for a new program of competitive grants for worker
training, of which $500 million is designated for projects to prepare
workers for careers in energy and renewable industries.
(5) Also, the Hope Scholarship tax credit is being revised and
enhanced. The new credit will be $2,500 rather than the current
$1,800. It will also allow students to receive the credit for
"supplies," which includes books and equipment (currently the
credit can only be used for tuition expenses), and is 40% refundable,
which will help low-income students qualify.
(6) The largest provision of funding would be the state Fiscal
Stabilization Fund, in which California would get $8
billion. Sixty-one percent of that fund is dedicated to
K-16 on a "use it or lose it" basis over two
years. The funding will flow from the Federal Secretary of
Education to the governor of each state and be moved through the annual
budget process in concert with the governor's plan for distribution
that was approved by the Federal Secretary. Higher Education is
directed to use the funds to "mitigate the need to raise tuition
and fees for in-State students". The language stipulates
Higher Education may not use that provision's funding to increase
endowments or for capital outlay. Under the Modernization, Renovation
and Repair provision, $6 billion is included for Higher Education --
preliminary estimates fall between $300 million to $400 million for
community colleges in California, depending on the eventual formula
(7) Additionally, community colleges will benefit from the $15.6
billion included to increase the Pell maximum grant by $500, for a
total of $5,350 for 2009-10. The House version also includes $490
million for Federal Work Study programs and increases limits for
unsubsidized Stafford loans by $2,000. For College of the Desert,
the significance of this funding would allow increased worker training
programs in energy, sustainability and green-clean technology.
The increased funding could be used to provide facilities that are
specifically designed for high-tech green programs. The increase in
Pell Grants as well as the Hope Scholarship tax credit will provide
relief for students whose financial ability is limited to obtain an
education to increase their standard of living."
Habermehl, County Superintendent, Orange County Department of
with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Last year, Orange County
School Districts contributed $313 Million from their General Funds to
subsidize insufficient Special Education funding from State and Federal
sources. The stimulus bill would reduce the Special Education
encroachment by 1/3 over the next two years. We strongly support
this provision of the bill.
2. School Facilities - Repair and Modernization: In comparison to
the House version, the Senate Bill would eliminate all funding for
facilities repair, renovation, and construction. Orange County
School Districts would have received $80 Million under the House
version. We strongly support the House version of this
bill. The funding under the House Bill would help school
districts fund much needed repair, renovation, and modernization of
3. State Fiscal Stabilization: The House version provided $79 Billion
for State Fiscal Stabilization. However, the Senate Bill reduces
this amount by more than 50%, or $40 Billion. This means that
Orange County School Districts would receive approximately $200 to $250
Million less fiscal stabilization funding than that proposed in the
House version. Given the national and global economic crisis
which has resulted in less tax revenues to states, we strongly support
the House version of this bill.
Butzlaff, City Administratror, City of Placentia:
The City of
Placentia has a number of projects that are ready to go, including
enhancement, rehabilitation, maintenance, and capacity expansion
The following is a sample of a few federal economic stimulus proposed
(1) Enhancement project - Placentia Metrolink station
parking structure (project cost is $14, million).
(2) Rehabilitation Project - Golden Avenue Bridge
replacement (project cost is $1.5 million).
(3) Capacity Expansion Project - Citywide master plan sewer
capacity enhancements (project cost is $4 million).
(4) Rehabilitation Project - Orangethorpe Avenue widening
and rehabilitation from Kraemer Boulevard to east city limits (project
cost is $4.8 million).
We have been working closely with our two Congressional
representatives, Caltrans and the Orange County Transportation
Authority to promote these "ready to go projects" that will
create up to 472 jobs, help stimulate the economy and make significant
capital improvements within the community.
BERNARDINO COUNTY PERSPECTIVE
Willis, Upland City Councilman and Chairman Public Works Committee:
program is to include funding for "shovel ready" public works
projects. That sounds good on face value, but few projects can be
defined as "shovel ready" for the following reason:
Shovel ready means that a project has clear deed and title to
property, has been engineered and is ready to go to bid. Most
projects remain on the drawing board until such time as they are ready
for funding. This would include "engineering." It
is not prudent for a local public agency to spend money on the
engineering until you know for sure you've got the money.
Otherwise you could very well spend a few million dollars on
planning and engineering only to find later that you haven't
the funding for actual construction. Much larger
agencies may be different, wherein they have the budget to fund
engineering because no matter what, they will eventually
build the project. But, the rules can always change within a few
months, thus making it risky to do the engineering prior to
confirmation of funding. Agencies that may have an acceptable
project have 90 to 120 days to do the engineering... in reality that is
slicing it close.
So, I'd say there is some confusion over the definition of
"shovel ready" for many smaller public agencies.
Smaller agencies should be targeted by the Fed's because it is a
sure way of spreading the wealth where it may be needed most."
Ackerman, President, DGA Associates, Sacramento (commercial
"The interesting point to all of this is how the money will be
allocated, whether it's discretionary or through existing formulas.
the House version of the package has over $46 billion for
transportation infrastructure, including: $30 billion for bridge and
highway funding, to be distributed by existing formulas with a portion
of the funds within each state being sub-allocated by population
areas. $12 billion is for transit funding, with new construction
being distributed on a discretionary basis, and upgrades, repair, and
other assistance being distributed according to existing formula.
$3 billion for Airport Improvement Grants, distributed on a
Bell: Executive Officer, Building Industry Association, Desert Chapter:
"The housing industry has basically collapsed in the wake of a
credit crisis. While Congress works to reduce mortgage foreclosures,
they must also provide incentives that will bring home buyers back into
the marketplace. Providing a home buyer tax credit that could be
applied toward a down payment will make a huge difference here in the
The good news is that on Wednesday, the Senate voted to give a tax
credit of 10 percent of the value of new or existing residences, up to
a $15,000, in the current debate on the elements of the federal
economic stimulus bill.
If the tax credit holds up as Congress continues its debate, it would
be a huge shot in the arm for the housing industry, since current law
provides for a $7,500 tax break but only for first-time
homebuyers. The Senate's vote allows a tax based on local housing
prices, ranging significantly higher than the current $7,500 which used
to be only available for first-time purchases. It would go to all
home buyers, with income limitations; and it would not need to be
Democrats readily agreed to the tax credit proposal, although it may be
changed or even deleted as the stimulus measure makes its way through
Congress over the next 10 days or so."
We hope you
enjoyed this issue of our Newsletter!