Stimulate this

Idaho delegation opposes $1 billion check to state


Idaho's congressional delegation remains steadfastly opposed to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which contains almost $1 billion in cold, hard cash for the State of Idaho.

The $819 billion bill passed the House with no support from Republicans nor from Idaho Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick, who said the cost per job is too high.

"The logic on jobs was stretched on lots of projects that have great merit," Minnick told BW.

Minnick sent a press release after the vote, indicating his concern with growing the budget deficit. Rep. Mike Simpson echoed the deficit concerns, encouraging constituents to imagine a stack of $1,000 bills over 63 miles high.

"I agree with Speaker Pelosi, this stimulus package needs to be temporary, timely, and targeted; however, this bill is none of these," Simpson said.

Liberal and state groups panned the Idaho delegation's vote while urging the Senate to also approve the measure.

"We need jobs. We need them now. Despite U.S. Reps. Minnick's and Simpson's votes to the contrary, the House today addressed the nation's foremost crisis," stated United Action for Idaho board chairman Dick Chilcote.

Now before the U.S. Senate, which faces a full-court press from the Obama administration to get a stimulus bill passed, Idaho's newest senator is playing hardball.

"It is a giant spending package that was put together by the Democrats to spend the 40 years of programs that they've been trying to get through," said Sen. Jim Risch.

Risch said he would support a stimulus bill that focuses on job creation, but that the bill before the Senate contains too much other stuff.

"I love arts," Risch said, adding that he and his wife, Vickie, go to the opera. "That $50 million to the Endowment for the Arts is not a stimulus to create ongoing jobs."

Nor is the $120 million for a global warming study that Risch cited.

Sen. Mike Crapo said he would support an acceleration of government spending that is already planned, but that the price tag on the stimulus is much too high. He called the bill pork, but added he would support stimulus for timber jobs and a tax credit for renewable energy and nuclear energy.

The package does contain almost $1 billion for the State of Idaho, according to a National Conference of State Legislatures analysis, to shore up the state budget, hire teachers, build roads, water and energy infrastructure projects and maintain social programs that are on the chopping block as tax revenue continues to decline.

The largest component of the stimulus bill is the state fiscal stabilization chapter, with $79 billion in grants to states for education and Medicaid.

Labor, health and education spending come next at $89.3 billion, followed by transportation and housing at $60.6 billion and energy and water at $53.8 billion.

By comparison, the tax relief contemplated in the Senate version of the bill will cost the federal government $357 billion over the next decade.