Republicans Deem Transpo Stimulus — 6% of Total Spending — a ‘Failure’

Republicans on the House transportation panel held a press conference today to deem the economic stimulus law a failure, citing low infrastructure spending in the nation’s highest-unemployment states.

Unemployment_DOT_Stimulus_Spending.JPGRep. John Mica (FL), the committee’s senior GOPer, and six colleagues displayed a chart (depicted at right) that used estimates of stimulus money spent so far by state DOTs — as opposed to the amount obligated.

Tallying obligated money might have gotten in the way of the GOPers’ argument, since states are beating the White House deadline for obligating transport funds.

But the press conference also hit on a theme that auditors at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) noted this week: Stimulus cash has not been steered to the nation’s most economically devastated areas, largely because of an emphasis on getting money out the door quickly.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood responded quickly to the GAO report, asking governors late yesterday to redirect money to infrastructure in struggling areas.

This political firestorm over the stimulus’ success obscures two crucial decisions that helped seal its fate as a job creator.

First, as Mica and his committee chairman, Jim Oberstar (D-MN), often pointed out during the stimulus, more cash for infrastructure would have generated more jobs.

The duo’s proposed $85 billion transportation stimulus was ultimately cut to $48 billion to make room for extra tax cuts. That $48 billion represents just 6 percent of the total stimulus measure, as the AP points out in a fact check of today’s event.

Judging the effectiveness of the entire law based on such a tiny slice of the pie — no matter how economically potent transportation spending is — seems misguided at best.

Second, investing more in transit would have given greater benefits to the urban areas that are the nation’s economic workhorses. Transit also creates about 19 percent more jobs than road projects on a dollar-for-dollar basis, according to research by the Surface Transportation Policy Project.

Still, Mica’s statement this morning made a compelling point, one that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) referenced yesterday:

Some leading Democrats are talking about the possibility of another huge stimulus, despite
the current package’s failure to put money on the streets quickly and
create jobs. 

In addition, the Administration wants to doom a major
transportation bill — the only real jobs bill this Congress could
consider — to an 18-month delay.

If House Democrats decide to focus on a new transportation bill as a de facto second stimulus, there could be some drama in the offing over the next few weeks.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

GOP Demands a Stop to Stim Spending. What Will It Mean for Rail Projects?

|
The top Republican currently on the Appropriations Committee wants to take back stimulus funds promised to states and localities for much-needed infrastructure programs, including more than $6 billion in transportation funding. High-speed rail projects would take an especially big hit under the plan. Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) has introduced H.R. 6403, the American Recovery and Reinvestment […]

Road Stimulus Money: Half Spent on Repaving, 17% on Widening

|
The $787 billion economic stimulus law provided $27 billion for roads and bridges. But is the money going to shore up aging infrastructure or to add new highway lanes? Nonpartisan auditors at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) examined the question during a House transportation committee hearing today. And as the Associated Press reports in the […]

House Jobs Bill Mimics the Stimulus: $27.5B for Roads, $8.4B for Transit

|
The House is slated to vote as soon as tomorrow on a job-creation package that includes $27.5 billion for highways and $8.4 billion for transit, according to a transportation committee document obtained by Streetsblog Capitol Hill. House transportation committee chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) (Photo: Bike Portland via Flickr) That funding divide mirrors the spending levels […]

New Stimulus Data: Road Funds 77% Under Contract, Transit at 74%

|
As of the end of February, nearly $5.4 billion of transit stimulus money, or 74 percent, was under contract for projects in the 50 states and D.C., according to a Streetsblog Capitol Hill analysis of data released today by the House transportation committee. (Photo: DMI Blog) The success rate of transit stimulus spending was slightly […]

Dems, AFL-CIO Step Up Push for Infrastructure Spending as Job Creator

|
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka today called for more investments in infrastructure as one plank of a job creation proposal that he plans to bring to the White House employment summit next month — as congressional Democrats continued jockeying over how and whether to pursue and long-term transportation bill in the coming months. AFL-CIO President Richard […]