With a big push from President-elect Barack Obama, a new economic-stimulus measure is virtually certain to be introduced soon after the new Congress begins in January. Odds also are good that infrastructure funding will be part of that package. Major questions remain, however, including how large the overall plan will be and how much of the money will go for public works.
Obama continues to say a stimulus is at the top of his domestic agenda. The President-elect on Nov. 24 announced his choices for top economic-policy posts, including Federal Reserve Bank of New York President Timothy Geithner as his pick to be Treasury secretary. Obama said, “The first job of my economic team is to shape that economic-stimulus package so that it is delivering on the 2.5 million jobs that we talked about [in the campaign] and is also providing a down- payment on the long-term strategies we need in terms of making this economy work for all Americans.”
Construction officials surely were pleased to hear Obama say those 2.5 million jobs include “jobs rebuilding our infrastructure, our roads, our bridges, modernizing our schools and creating the clean-energy infrastructure of the 21st century.” David Bauer, American Road & Transportation Builders Association senior vice president for government affairs, says, “They keep stating very clearly that public works will be a component of it.” But he believes the details haven’t been decided yet.
Asked about the size of the stimulus package, Obama said, “I don’t want to discuss numbers right now. We have to make sure the stimulus is significant enough that it really gives a jolt to the economy.”
In September, the House passed a $61-billion stimulus that had $30 billion for infrastructure, including $12.8 billion for highways. In the Senate, Democrats on Nov. 17 floated a $100.3-billion proposal, with $23 billion for public works, including $10 billion for highways, but it didn’t make it to the floor for a vote. Bauer says those measures are indications of how the new stimulus may be structured. But he adds that viewing them as more than indicators “is probably reaching too far.”
“significant enough that it really gives
a jolt to the economy.”
Obama wants Congress to move fast. House Democrats already are working on a package that will be “much bigger” than $61 billion, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters on Nov. 21. Pelosi said Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) is drafting spending provisions that, among other things, would “rebuild our bridges and modernize our schools.”