New House Jobs Bill Dominated by Direct Aid to Cities

Soon after the Senate signed off yesterday on a $150 billion package of tax extenders and unemployment benefits that was promoted as a job-creation measure — a bill that lacked dedicated new funding for transportation — Democrats on the House education and labor committee were releasing their own jobs legislation.

The House proposal also lacks specific infrastructure funding, but its structure reflects a shift that could hearten urban planners and other advocates for a more city-centric approach to federal transportation funding. Three-quarters of the bill’s estimated $100 billion in aid would go directly to cities and counties to help avert layoffs of firefighters, police, and other workers.

Mayors had pressed for more transportation stimulus spending to go directly to cities but lost the political battle, as the lion’s share of the $48 billion in road and transit aid in last year’s recovery package was diverted through state DOTs. Many urban governments anticipate budget shortfalls in 2010 that could exceed those at the height of the financial crisis, with transit cuts and delays in infrastructure projects looming as consequences of the cash crunch.

Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the education and labor panel’s chairman, told Roll Call yesterday that he hopes mayors will use their political leverage to help the bill move forward in the Senate.

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