Awaiting Stimulus

By Chris Kissel February 11, 2009

Senate and House committee chairs met this afternoon and edged toward a $789 billion compromise
between two similarly-priced but divergent $800 billion-plus stimulus packages. How much will Washington State get? TBA.

The terms of the negotiation, including which of our delegation's provisions will remain intact and how much money our state will ultimately get, were hammered out all night last night and and all day today in meetings between subcommittee staffers. The final bill was to be presented to a conference committee (a ten-member committee that did not include any members of our delegation), and was finally approved by the House and Senate this evening. (The NYT
has the latest.)

The offices of several of Washington State's representatives didn't return calls for comment earlier this afternoon. The office of Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), said McDermott, whose push for expanded unemployment insurance benefits successfully made it to the final bill, was pleased with the outcome. "He wants to make sure the state of Washington, and the city of Seattle, get a fair shake, and it looks like that's happened," McDermott's spokesperson Mike DeCesare told PubliCola.

According to one congressional office, a meeting to announce the provisions of the final bill was scheduled for 4 p.m. PST today.

Early reports say education and health care funding were cut drastically in the bill to make room for GOP-favored tax cuts, and that the final bill includes a $35 billion blow to the 50-state budget stabilization fund.

The Senate bill, passed yesterday, with a total $40 billion cut in the stabilization fund, took out $668 million in general-purpose budget funding for Washington.  Included in that cut was $155 million set aside by the House for sorely-needed education funding for the state. It's unclear right now how the new $35 billion version of the cut breaks down.

The office of Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) told PubliCola that today's final bill included $6 billion for cleanup at sites like Hanford and a substantial increase in the borrowing authority of the Bonneville Power Administration, provisions Sen. Murray pushed hard for in the Senate bill. An $11.5 billion amendment providing tax cuts for purchasers of expensive cars was also reportedly slashed--the original decision split the votes of Sen. Murray, who was in favor, and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), who passed her own amendment for tax breaks for electric cars.

Sens. Murray and Cantwell both released lists of funding projects they helped secure in the Senate bill that they hoped would make it through today's negotiations. The lists of each office were nearly identical, and include:

  • $2.02 billion in Medicaid funding

  • An additional $100 per month for unemployed workers

  • $200 million in transit funding

  • $2,500 partially refundable tax credit for 67,000 families

  • Obama's $1,000 tax credit for2.45 million working families in Washington State

The Senate also cut a fair amount of provisions from the House bill, which we detailed here . The final bill will have to rectify all of these add-ons and cuts. Sen. Cantwell's office told PubliCola they were waiting for details in the 4 p.m. announcement before speculating on which of the provisions Cantwell pushed for will be lost and which will be saved.

Although Washington State's delegation is completely absent from the conference committee negotiations, they've been pushing for their signature projects, like funding for education infrastructure, Medicaid and unemployment insurance increases , green initiatives , a $1.8 billion public lands rehabilitation provision pushed by Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA,6)  and all the other provisions our delegations has helped shape in their respective houses.
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