Vern Buchanan discusses economic stimulus bill

02/09/09 Seán Kinane
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U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan is a Republican who represents all or parts of Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, Hardee and DeSoto Counties.

This morning Buchanan briefed the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners on the federal economic stimulus bill making its way through Congress.

Buchanan told the Commission he is confident that the Senate’s version of the stimulus package will pass and then it will be reconciled with the House version soon.

“A bill that’s going to be voted on today or tomorrow in the Senate. And then by the end of the week, I’m sure there’ll be a conference in the next couple of days after that and then a final passage this week.”

Despite his confidence that the measure will become law, Buchanan himself doesn’t support it.

“I voted against it. I voted against it because I think there’s not as much stimulus as there should be. I think the tax provisions are a positive thing. But a lot of the other $500 billion in the House bill anyway is more about spending and a lot less about stimulus. I want to see a lot more for roads and bridges. I’m on that committee, only 3 percent actually got allocated for that. I almost fell over at that point. I thought it should have been 20-30 percent if we’re going to have real value for taxpayers dollars.”

Buchanan differentiated between “spending” and “stimulus,” but economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, has pointed out that any spending stimulates the economy. Nevertheless, Buchanan criticized the timing of stimulus spending in the current versions of the bill.

“I’m looking for a package that’s going to clearly help create jobs, help small businesses that create those jobs, and working families. That’s how I’m looking at that, because at the end of the day if we spend another trillion dollars and the interest on that over ten years, say another $200 to 300 billion, what are we leaving the next generation, our kids and grandkids, compared to what are we getting? So it’s got to have an impact, and it’s got to have an impact now. Only 20 percent of this big bill is even going to be spent in the first year. And by then we should be getting in a cycle that we’re moving in a more positive direction from an economic standpoint.”

Buchanan said he would have liked for more transportation funding to be in the stimulus bill. Another reason Buchanan doesn’t support the stimulus package is because it provides what he called a “pittance” to the Sarasota-Bradenton area.

“The figures that we’ve got is about $13 billion for Florida. Which we take a percentage of that based on the per capita, that’s not a very good number. And then the numbers that we had locally [Sarasota-Bradenton] was about $12.9 million. And again, it gets back to how much of an impact will that have in our area?”

Buchanan told the Sarasota County Commission that the cost of the stimulus package might not be enough of a benefit to the local economy of Sarasota and Bradenton.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and other economists have pointed out that spending will increase GDP and decrease unemployment more than tax cuts will. The Commission’s vice chair, Joe Barbetta, echoed a common Republican line – preferring tax cuts to more spending in the stimulus package.

“... to me, the quickest way to get money into the economy is obviously something like cutting the tax brackets in half. Having people immediately adjust their withholding from their pay, and money immediately gets into the system within a few weeks.”

Buchanan says that solving the country’s credit problem is more important than providing a stimulus and said he has spoken about the credit issue with new Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

“I think the bigger impact than even the stimulus bill: we’ve got a credit problem. We’ve got banks that aren’t lending. They’re lending some but only [to] the top premiere customers and we’ve got to find ways to get more credit to credit-worthy individuals buying houses, or buying furniture, or buying cars for consumers and small business. That’s what’s really killing us and that’s where the focus needs to be. I did talk to the Secretary [Geithner] last week in terms of economic stimulus and they’re going to be addressing this fairly aggressively in terms of dealing with banks and dealing with foreclosures, so I was happy to hear about that.”

Sarasota County submitted a list of 67 projects totaling over 948 million dollars to Congress to consider for funding under the federal stimulus legislation. The next County Commission meeting will be Wednesday at 9 am at the Sarasota County Administration Center, 1660 Ringling Blvd.

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan

Sarasota County Commission

Dean Baker on ‘spending is stimulus’

Krugman on tax cuts versus spending to stimulate the economy

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