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Well, now it’s official.
Yesterday, President Obama signed the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law, saying it will create or save 3.5 million jobs over the next two years and make large investments in our nations’ infrastructure.
Massachusetts is rumored to be in line to receive $11.9 billion from the bill, and according to the
Boston Business Journal, the White House says the bill will help create 79,000 more jobs here in the Bay State.
No matter what you think about the economic stimulus bill itself, there’s no denying that there is a problem in Massachusetts that needs to be solved. Our state has lost about 139,000 jobs since the high point of our economy a few years ago, according to today’s
MetroWest Daily News. And as the Boston Business Journal points out, the problem is accelerating. Unemployment in this state was at 6.5 percent in December. This number is concerning in its own right, but it’s made even more troubling by the fact that it stood at 5.5 percent just one month earlier.
People in Massachusetts need help. But despite my hope that economic stimulus money will help to jumpstart our economy, I still have concerns about how it will be spent in this state.
Governor Patrick’s appointment of Jeffrey Simon to be his director of infrastructure investment, following indications his administration made previously about using stimulus money to benefit private development (see this article in the
Boston Globe), makes me concerned that the general public might not benefit from the stimulus bill as much as they should. And a
Boston Herald article today raises the possibility that state rules will force public construction projects to use union labor under so-called project-labor agreements, which could inflate project costs by almost 12 percent and dilute the economic benefit of stimulus money.
I’m also worried that there is a general lack of oversight concerning how money will be spent. The Massachusetts House and Senate have appointed an 18-member special committee to determine how the Legislature will spend billions of dollars the Governor doesn’t use for infrastructure projects. There is only one House Republican on the committee, and given the Legislature’s track record of spending money irresponsibly, I am worried about the outcome.
Finally, I think it’s worth mentioning that amidst talk of spending all this money, serious discussions about saving money through reform have fallen by the wayside on Beacon Hill. This is perhaps the biggest problem of all with the stimulus bill.
Focusing solely on spending one-time federal funds, without even the slightest consideration of cost savings, is a dangerous mistake. It’s throwing good money after bad and that’s always a recipe for trouble.
What do you think about the economic stimulus bill? I’d like to know. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can just post a comment here.