On Tuesday, President Obama signed into law the much anticipated federal economic stimulus package.
Known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, this law will invest hundreds of billions of dollars into the State and national economy.
While there was much debate and disagreement throughout the process, the goals of the stimulus package have remained intact: one is to create jobs, two is to avoid layoffs, and three is to invest in education and clean and green energy, and to make sure that our safety net is sound.
In order to ensure that the money is used for its original intent, the federal government has attached strict criteria to the flow of those dollars. There is very little discretion allowed in how the money is spent.
All States, including Maine, will see investments in roads, bridges, clean water and sewer projects, energy and education. While the actual amount that will come to Maine is still being sorted out, we know, for example, we could see the number of Department of Transportation construction projects double this construction season.
Such investment will create a transformative moment, an opportunity to build for the future while at the same time putting people back to work.
It is extremely important that projects begin quickly, and that people are put back to work immediately. Only under that scenario will unemployed Mainers and Americans begin to see paychecks again…begin to spend money again…and we’ll begin to see the economy get back on track again.
While there is genuine excitement in the air about the stimulus plan and the money that will be invested in Maine, it’s important to keep in context that it will not solve all of Maine’s problems and won’t bring an instant fix to our economy by itself.
Estimates from the White House suggest the stimulus could create 15,000 jobs in Maine. Last year, the state lost about the same number of jobs as the national recession deepened.
The federal stimulus package does not allow us to end our obligation to maintain fiscal discipline. We must continue to seek out efficiencies at all levels of government, and control the growth of state programs to match those revenues.
The money is helpful, but it’s temporary.
We need to make smart choices now, so we will be better positioned in the future, not only for economic recovery and growth, but for balancing our budget and our tax burden being relieved for our citizens and businesses.
President Obama has maintained that the stimulus package be made transparent to the public, allowing people throughout the country to see how dollars are being spent in their home states.
In Maine, we have made it easy for you to track the progress of federal money coming into our State. Visit our Web site at www.maine.gov and click on “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009” on the left-hand side of the screen.
That link will give you the most up-to-date information on the stimulus package, how it affects Maine, and as it progresses, you will be able to track every dollar that comes in to Maine from this package, and how it is spent.
The Commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, Ryan Low, has been given the responsibility by me to ensure that we appropriately monitor every new dollar coming into the state, track how it is used, determine the number of jobs created and put all of that information into a format accessible to everyone.
Individual accounts will be established to keep the flow of federal dollars from being co-mingled with other sources of revenue. This will ensure accurate accounting for every new dollar coming into Maine.
The purpose of the stimulus is to get money into the economy as quickly as possible. For some areas, that means listing projects within 10 days, breaking ground in as little as 90 days.
But there is also a demand for unprecedented accountability.
Allocations of the new federal money cannot flow through traditional processes. It’s too slow. However, it is important to me that the Maine Legislature has an oversight responsibility in any stimulus related allocations.
Every state department and agency will be required to consult with their committee of jurisdiction before any spending plans will be approved by my office.
It’s important that the elected representatives – republicans and democrats and joint leadership – serving in the Legislature be given the opportunity for active participation in this process. Their oversight will help us to make the best uses of the new resources coming into Maine.
The stimulus plan presents a significant opportunity, but it will not – and can not – solve every problem.
We need to understand that this is a giant step, it’s one that is greatly appreciated, but at the same time there must be additional steps that we take together to make our state stronger into the future.
We must act quickly to put the resources to work, hold ourselves accountable for our actions and decisions, and to continue to practice fiscal responsibility in the State of Maine.
By doing this and working together toward the same goals and ideals of those jobs being provided here in our state and opportunities for our people here in Maine first, we are going to be able to pull through this difficult time and see a brighter future ahead.