Senate Passes Recovery/Jobs Package with Landrieu Provisions for Louisiana
Billions of dollars directed to Louisiana to create and sustain jobs, invest in infrastructure
The United States Senate, with the support of Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La., today by a vote of 61-37 passed its economic recovery package. The bill, which now must be reconciled with the House's version, is designed to create and sustain millions of private sector jobs, strengthen national infrastructure and reduce taxes for families and businesses.
The legislation appropriates nearly $2.3 billion for Louisiana projects and programs, and the state will benefit from additional tax relief for individuals and small businesses. Infrastructure investments include highways, ports, dams, water systems and public housing, as well as $465 million in State Stabilization Funds to allow state and local governments suffering from budget shortfalls to pay for education programs and other services. In addition, Sen. Landrieu shepherded $800 million into the package for agriculture relief for communities impacted by 2008 disasters and provisions to free up hurricane recovery funds.
"Although this package is not perfect, it has significantly more muscle and less fat than when it first reached the Senate," Sen. Landrieu said. "Inaction during this economic crisis is not an option. Congress must heed the call of President Obama and economists nationwide to act boldly in curbing our downward spiral. The policies of the last eight years have just not worked -- we have too much debt and not enough investment in infrastructure.
"By passing this package, Congress will create or save more than 52,000 jobs in Louisiana over the next two years. While this bipartisan Senate compromise is a good start, there is more work to do in conference negotiations with the House. There is an opportunity to trim more general spending from this bill and restore funding for initiatives that will create jobs and provide an immediate jolt to our economy -- like school construction funding."
"With a $2 billion deficit, we are facing a very real budget crisis in Louisiana," Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu said. "If passed, this economic recovery package will go a long way toward solving this crisis. On the other hand, if we say 'no' to the package, we will be accelerating dramatic cuts in Louisiana's health care and education, costing thousands of jobs and putting Louisiana further behind. We can't afford to miss this opportunity. President Obama's plan invests in Louisiana's people and creates opportunities for our state: the opportunity to keep our families healthy, the opportunity to have decent roads, bridges, and ports, and the opportunity to improve education. 137,000 Louisianans have lost their jobs, and many now have no health coverage. This plan gives them the support they need to stay healthy while they get back on their feet. We must keep fighting to bring Louisiana's infrastructure into the 21st century. This funding can help make our most important projects -- such as the completion of I-49 North, the elevation of LA-1, improving our ports and restoring our coasts -- a reality."
"Last year we had a bailout for banks, insurance companies, and big money executives," Louisiana State Sen. Eric La Fleur (District 28) said. "I am glad to see a stimulus package that will put money into real projects like schools, roads and our health care system. This will hopefully prime the economy and set up our country's economy for future growth."
"If we do nothing today, we run a risk that we will have nothing tomorrow," said Louisiana State Sen. Lydia Jackson (District 39). "America's families cannot afford the luxury of Congressional inactivity. The passage of the stimulus bill would also be a great boost to the completion of I-49 north to Arkansas. That interstate is the gateway to economic prosperity for our state."
A bipartisan group of nearly 20 Democratic and Republican Senators, of which Sen. Landrieu was a member, held a series of negotiations last week. These Senators cut through a partisan stalemate to construct a compromise bill to allow for more immediate job creation.
"This compromise represents the importance of bipartisanship in the Senate," Sen. Landrieu said. "Our coalition of about 20 Senators found common ground to move this bill forward. Three Republicans ultimately voted for the package, but twice that many were part of our negotiations and contributed immensely to our effort."
Louisiana Infrastructure Upgrades
The American Restoration and Reinvestment Act contains $129 billion for infrastructure improvements nationwide. The legislation will inject billions of dollars into the Louisiana's economy to fund transportation infrastructure improvements, Corps of Engineers projects and clean drinking water improvements. About 80 percent of the plan will affect the economy within the first two years after enactment, and it is estimated that the package will save almost a million jobs this year alone.
Below is infrastructure funding for Louisiana contained in the Senate's economic recovery package:
$460 million for Louisiana for the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps will receive $4.6 billion nationwide, including $500 million to repair locks and dams and $200 million for dam safety. These funds are expected to create as many as 37,000 direct new private sector jobs and as many as 102,000 indirect jobs for related industries.
$425.1 million for highways.
$77.4 million for transit projects.
$71.6 million for local clean and drinking water infrastructure improvements
$73.5 million to the public housing capital fund to enable local public housing agencies to address the backlog in capital needs -- especially those improving energy efficiency in aging developments
$39.7 million to enable the state and local governments, in partnership with community-based organizations, to acquire, construct, and rehabilitate public housing and provide rental assistance to poor families.
$30.6 for weatherization projects.
Landrieu Provisions for Louisiana
During the Senate's consideration of the bill, Sen. Landrieu worked with Democrats and Republicans to include key provisions to benefit Louisiana. These Landrieu amendments include:
Arbitration panel: This provision will free $1.4 billion trapped in bureaucratic red tape since the 2005 storms. The arbitration panel will expedite hurricane recovery projects held up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The panel will have authority to determine eligibility and scope of work for proposed projects.
Hazard mitigation: FEMA has refused to reimburse homeowners who without prior approval began mitigation work after March 16, 2008 -- an arbitrary date set by the agency. The Landrieu provision will allow all homeowners who paid out of pocket to prevent damage from future storms to be reimbursed under the Road Home program regardless of bureaucratic deadlines.
$800 million for agriculture/rural community relief: The Landrieu language will allow farmers to pay an administrative, nominal fee to qualify for the SURE program, the agricultural disaster relief program that was created in the 2008 Farm Bill, even if they did not purchase coverage for 2008. Approximately 50 percent of Louisiana farmers had not purchased necessary coverage to qualify for a SURE payment. The Landrieu language will allow Louisiana farmers to retroactively qualify for this assistance. Louisiana will receive approximately $200 million from this provision.
"Our recovery funds have been tied up in bureaucratic red tape, and today we are a step closer to freeing $1.4 billion for our communities," Sen. Landrieu said. "We also included an important provision to ensure homeowners who protected their homes from future storms are reimbursed. We are also finally giving our farmers who suffered from 2008 disasters the bridge relief they need to stay in business."
Education Funding for Louisiana
Louisiana school, university and education programs will receive a variety of funds from the economic recovery package. The Senate has allocated more than $330 million for education in Louisiana, including Head Start ($7.3 million); child care and development grants ($40 million); education technology ($20.6 million); and programs to close the achievement gap and enable disadvantaged students to reach their potential ($256 million).
During Senate negotiations, school construction funding was removed from the economic recovery bill. Sen. Landrieu will work to restore this funding while the House and Senate work on compromise legislation in conference this week.
"There is a clear need in Louisiana and around the country to construct 21st century schools, and I support that effort," Sen. Landrieu said. "I did not agree with removing these school construction funds from the economic recovery package because we must address the crumbling infrastructure facing so many of our Louisiana schools. In conference, we are working to add back at least a portion of these school construction funds."
Law Enforcement Funding for Louisiana
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides more than $27 million to Louisiana for law enforcement efforts. This includes $21 million for Byrne Justice Assistance formula grants; $4.4 million for grants to fight domestic violence; $880,000 million for crime victims compensation and assistance; and $1 million in grants track down cyber predators who prey on children.
Tax Cuts and Credits
Through a series of bipartisan compromises struck on the Senate floor, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act now contains some $350 billion in tax cuts. Sen. Landrieu supported an amendment that would increase the homebuyer tax credit from $7,500 to $15,000, which will apply to all home purchases in 2009. She also supported an amendment that would allow individuals to deduct interest on their car loans. The bill also includes a tax refund of $500 for individuals and $1,000 for married couples.
National Infrastructure Upgrades
$7 billion to deploying high-speed internet throughout the United States, particularly in unserved and underserved areas. Fifty percent of these funds will be used for projects in rural America.
$3.4 billion for repair, restoration and improvement of public facilities at parks, forests, refuges and on other public and tribal lands.
$2.4 billion to the Department of Defense for quality-of-life and family-friendly military construction projects such as family housing and child care centers.
$3.7 billion for VA hospital and medical facility construction and improvements, long-term care facilities for veterans and improvements at VA national cemeteries.