Proposed stimulus aid to SC balloons

McClatchy NewspapersJanuary 23, 2009 

WASHINGTON -- South Carolina would receive almost $3.2 billion in one-time federal funds under new economic stimulus figures released Friday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, including a $905 million payment to wipe out the state budget deficit.

Among other big-ticket items, South Carolina would get nearly $480 billion for highway and bridge construction and repairs, plus more than $389 million for food stamps, while college students could tap an additional $350 million in Pell grants.

The House Democratic bill for implementing President Barack Obama's recovery plan also would deliver about $244 million in tax cuts to poor South Carolinians with children through expanded tax credits.

Those totals were much higher than partial figures released a day earlier by several congressional committees.

The changes showed the fast-moving political drama of trying to use the federal government to jolt the economy back to health.

In a somewhat surreal day, given the country's financial crisis, Pelosi's aides spent the afternoon showering reporters with e-mailed charts displaying ever-growing stimulus spending numbers by state.

Republicans objected to the Democratic spending plans under Obama's $825 billion recovery package, even as the new president met with congressional leaders from both parties.

"I know that it is a heavy lift to do something as substantial as we're doing right now," Obama said at a White House meeting attended by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, a Columbia Democrat.

"I recognize that there are still some differences around the table, and between the administration and members of Congress, about the particular details of the plan," Obama said.

House Republican leader John Boehner criticized the Democratic stimulus bill after the meeting, saying it is too costly and would spend money on some frivolous items without helping revive the economy.

"I'm concerned about the size of the package, and I'm concerned about some of the spending that's in there," Boehner said. "How can you spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives? How does that stimulate the economy?"

Boehner apparently referred to funds that states could use for family-planning services.

Boehner tried to drive a wedge between Obama and House Democrats, claiming that they have not included in their stimulus package a tax credit of $3,000 for each job created by a company, as Obama proposed.

"The House Democrats' bill contains significantly less tax relief than President Obama requested," said Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman.

Rep. Gresham Barrett, newly named to a House Republican stimulus task force, said the economic recovery bill should provide for less spending and more tax cuts, ticking off his wish list of provisions.

"It is cutting the capital gains tax," Barrett, of Westminister, told the WBT radio station in Charlotte, N.C. "It's cutting the marginal (tax) rates to 15 percent and 20 percent for the average person, It's making the Bush tax cuts permanent. It's cutting the corporate tax rate. This allows people to keep their own hard-earned money in their pockets."

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the Senate Finance Committee chairman, released the Senate Democrats' first stimulus plan. It contains more tax cuts -- about $4 billion for South Carolinians -- but less spending than the House Democratic bill.

In Columbia, Joel Sawyer, a spokesman for Gov. Mark Sanford, reiterated the former congressman's longstanding opposition to federal funding that would increase the budget deficit.

"There is not a magical money fountain in D.C.," Sawyer said. "This is borrowed money coming from programs (with a current surplus) like Social Security. It has to be paid back at some point, and it represents a tax increase at some point."

Sawyer said the governor hasn't decided whether he would accept federal stimulus aid.

"If checks come from D.C., then we will cross that road when we get there," Sawyer said.

As the economy crashed in the closing months of the White House campaign, Obama repeatedly said it was regrettable -- but necessary -- to increase deficit spending for a prescribed period in order to revive the economy.

Obama again pressured congressional leaders Friday, telling them that "the news has not been good" from his daily economic briefings by Larry Summers, his top economic adviser.

"So, for all of you who have moved as quickly as you have ... to start moving this economic recovery package through, to create three to four million new jobs -- that is going to be absolutely critical," Obama said.

Barrett and other Republicans dispute Obama's employment claims, saying his stimulus plan would boost government rolls but lead to fewer private-sector jobs.

Pelosi and House Appropriations Chairman David Obey issued new spending figures in such rapid-fire dispatches that some of her Democratic colleagues had trouble keeping up with them.

"We are just beginning to look at this stuff as you are," said Chuck Fant, a spokesman for Rep. John Spratt, a York Democrat and chairman of the House Budget Committee.

-- The State governance editor Leroy Chapman and McClatchy Newspapers reporter Lesley Clark contributed to this account

Stimulus tsunami

New economic-stimulus figures released Friday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would bring more than $3 billion to South Carolina. All figures listed are through Sept. 30, 2010 and would be in addition to annual federal appropriations:

State budget deficit offset/fiscal stabilization: ..... $ 905.09 million

Highways/Bridges construction/repair: ..... $ 479.86 million

Food Stamps ..... $ 389.2million

Pell Grants (college) ..... $ 349.59 million

School construction/modernization (K-12) ..... $ 208.72 million

Education/Disabled students ..... $ 200.79 million

Poor school districts .....$ 191.31 million

College/University construction/modernization ..... $82.7million

Employment services/Job training ..... $65.98 million

Social Security for elderly/disabled ..... $60.3million

Water-treatment plants/sewers/pipelines ..... $59.47 million

Law-enforcement grants ..... $57.15 million

Child-care and development grants ..... $36.32 million

Public-transit systems ..... $34.19 million

Homeless shelters ..... $15.9million

Community services block grant ..... $15.36 million

Education technology grants ..... $13.82 million

Head Start program .....$ 9.92 million

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance program ..... $ 6.64 million

Preventative health/health services grant ..... $ 3.83 million

Elderly nutrition services ..... $ 3.11 million

The House Democrats' stimulus plan also includes about $244 million in tax cuts for poorer South Carolinians through expanded tax credits for children.

Total federal funds:

$ 3.19 billion

McClatchy Newspapers 2008

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