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Public Statements

Economic Stimulus

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I also wish to discuss the precarious state of our United States economy, which is facing one of the most dire economic crises in history. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I understand that it is imperative that the Federal Government use all means at its disposal to address these problems.

It is critical as we move forward that the Appropriations Committee and the Senate focus on spending our Nation's dollars on worthwhile projects, which both benefit the American people on their merits and will also lead to an increase in jobs.

To this end, I wish to highlight a few projects in my home State of Pennsylvania which appear to have significant potential to stimulate economic investment, as well as return our unemployed workers to the workforce.

The fastest way to put people to work on transportation infrastructure projects is to finance highway repairs. These repairs support construction jobs that can start immediately. Additionally, infrastructure repairs ensure an acceptable level of safety and reliability on existing highway networks, which is critical in a State like Pennsylvania that has 6,000 structurally-deficient bridges.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Pennsylvania could obligate $1.5 billion on 313 shovel-ready highway repair projects. These projects all focus on Pennsylvania's bridge deficiencies, pavement needs and safety concerns, as well as create jobs and achieve meaningful infrastructure improvements. Additionally, all of the highway infrastructure repairs can be put out to bid within 6 months, with construction starting shortly thereafter.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has also provided me with a list of 147 public transportation projects totaling $700 million that, according to transit agencies around the State, are ready to begin. The projects include replacing catenary pole involved in electrified train service, station improvements, alternative fuel bus purchases and intermodal centers.

The Port of Pittsburgh Commission in Pennsylvania has identified over $580 million in shovel-ready project work that could be started in 6 months, of which $430 million could be completed in 2 years and the remaining $150 million could be completed in 3 years.

The largest share of that money would be applied to the Lower Monongahela Improvement Project for Locks and Dams 2-3-4, a project 5 years behind the original completion date of 2004. Without investment from the economic stimulus, the project will not otherwise be completed until the 2019-2022 period. Stimulus funding could result in a working, reliable chamber, a major improvement over the current schedule. Funding can also be provided for emergency repairs to Emsworth Dam.

These projects would add or preserve tens of thousands of high-skilled, high-paying jobs for the southwest Pennsylvania region, including permanent employees at facilities that depend on river transportation, such as U.S. Steel's Clairton Coke Works, ArcelorMital's Coke Works, Eastman Materials, Welland Chemical, Kinder Morgan, Ashland Petroleum, Consol Energy and the Elrama Power Plant.

Previous delays have resulted in increasing costs, interruptions to service and benefits foregone. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers calculates that the region has already lost over $1.2 billion in benefits that can never be recuperated.

Health care is one of the largest drivers of our economy and a worthwhile investment in the physical and economic health of the country.

In 2002, the Northeastern Pennsylvania Medical Education Development Consortium was formed to explore the feasibility of locating a new medical college in northeastern Pennsylvania. A 2006 feasibility study made the need for a medical school clear. This region of Pennsylvania has shortages of physicians in many specialties and over one-third of the practicing physicians are expected to retire in the next decade.

To address this critical need, the Commonwealth Medical College is scheduled to open in 2009 and has already received investments of $35 million from the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program and $25 million from Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania, as well as State, Federal, and private philanthropic sources.

Additional funding will be used to support construction of the college, which will attract medical and biomedical research to northeastern Pennsylvania, improving the local and regional economy, as well as the health of the population. Over the next 20 years, the Commonwealth Medical College is expected to greatly increase the number of physicians in the area, add $70 million to the local economy and create 1,000 jobs.

This project also has national implications, as the research conducted there will focus on healthcare conditions affecting the aging population, including research on cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

There are numerous higher education projects throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania which exemplify the types of activities that this country should target as it searches for an effective means to stimulate the economy. These meritorious projects provide necessary infrastructure improvements to many colleges and universities in my home State, while at the same time creating a myriad of new jobs and stimulating the economy. It is my understanding that all of these projects are ready for construction within 6 months or sooner.

Specifically, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, which represents 14 public universities in my home State, provided me with a list of 47 projects totaling $445 million. These programs focus on new building construction, renovations to existing buildings and energy conservation measures. The Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, which represents the 14 community colleges throughout Pennsylvania, also provided me with a list of 34 projects totaling $128 million. Selected projects include building renovation and construction, public safety programs, infrastructure repairs and upgrades, and new resources for education and training.

In regard to the private colleges and universities in Pennsylvania, the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania, which represents 86 private institutions, provided me with a list of 42 projects totaling $385 million. Many of these projects focus on the construction of new academic buildings, the renovation and expansion of training facilities and improvements to existing infrastructure.

In many cities and small towns in Pennsylvania aging sewer pipes and treatment plants are malfunctioning, leading to sewage contamination of local freshwater. In many areas across Pennsylvania, and the country, water
infrastructure is 50, 60 years old or much older.

Throughout Pennsylvania the need for funding is great, because without it many of my constituents, a significant number of whom are retired and on a fixed income, are facing sewer rate increases of up to 100 percent. An investment in water infrastructure is a wise one, as it will lead to construction jobs in areas where jobs are often hard to come by, while relieving a significant financial burden on residents.

In western Pennsylvania, the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, which services communities in and around Pittsburgh, is assisting municipalities in that region seeking to meet clean water compliance standards. Currently, the Pittsburgh region is facing its largest and most costly public works project thus far, the rehabilitation and long-term maintenance of 4,000 miles of sewers that serve nearly one million residents in the area. Additionally, in central Pennsylvania, the Borough of Philipsburg's outdated storm and wastewater collection system overflows during periods of heavy rain. The cost of modernizing this sewer system is significant, but it is necessary.

While these are just two examples of water and sewer projects in Pennsylvania, an investment in wastewater infrastructure would create construction jobs, and ease the financial burden on the residents in many economically disadvantaged regions of Pennsylvania.

The Environmental Protection Agency's Brownfields Remediation Grant Program provides funding for private developers to take real property business sites with environmental concerns and clean them up in order to redevelop. Redeveloping this land creates space for new businesses--with new jobs--to expand in areas that might not otherwise be available. Pennsylvania alone has an estimated 150,000 acres of brownfields with great potential for re-use.

Brownfields cleanups create jobs not only through the workers needed to do the cleanups themselves, but subsequently with the new businesses that occupy the property. I recently met with a developer in Pennsylvania who is prepared to immediately undertake cleanup projects totaling $283 million in my home State. Combined, his projects could create an estimated 322,225 new jobs in Pennsylvania.

For every $1 invested into brownfields cleanups, an estimated $15-20 are immediately returned to the economy in the form of job creation and State and Federal tax revenue. Jobs created by brownfields cleanups--both before and after--are taken by locally available workers, stimulating local economies. This is exactly the result we should be requiring from every program in the stimulus package.

These projects include cleanups in Bensalem, King of Prussia, Lehman Township, Bridgeport, Frazer, Norristown, Malvern, Limerick, Conshohocken, West Norriton, and Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. These are all areas in Pennsylvania that could certainly use targeted economic development. I understand that there is a question over how fast this money can be spent, and I agree that money from the stimulus be put to use as soon as possible after passage of the bill. However, the developers with whom I have spoken have all assured me that brownfields funding can be used within the 120 day benchmark to determine shovel-ready projects. Programs, such as this one, should be the focus of the stimulus.

I recently met with a group of Pennsylvania State Senators and Representatives who expressed their concern over cleanup efforts in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, a large watershed which covers much of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. Cleanup efforts from agricultural runoff and other environmental impacts can be expensive. The Watershed Rehabilitation Program can mediate some of the enormous costs to individual landowners--often small business farmers--who are tasked with the cleanup of their own property.

These cleanup efforts will require labor--stimulating the workforce while simultaneously making our environment a cleaner place for our children and grandchildren.

Military construction projects funded through the stimulus must be identified as priorities by military leadership and be at or near design completion so that construction can be started in short order. These projects must help modernize our military support structure and defense capabilities. The following projects are both shovel-ready and of vital importance to the State, the military and the Nation.

The End Item Shipping and Receiving Facility at Letterkenny Army Depot is a perfect example of a shovel ready project that will create construction work for Pennsylvanians and will enhance Letterkenny's capability to support the movement of military equipment. The identified site is on Federal land, close to utilities, next to rail and ground transportation and in the depot industrial area. Design is complete and Congress authorized $7.5 million for the facility in the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for 2007--P.L. 109-365. Regrettably, this valuable project failed to move forward and additional funding is needed to complete the project at this time.

Another vital military construction project is the Hermitage Readiness Center, in Hermitage, PA. When complete, the facility will support 128 Pennsylvania Army National Guard members who are currently housed in substandard and undersized buildings. This project is a high priority for the Pennsylvania Adjutant General, as land has been acquired and the design is 99 percent complete. I am told that construction could be started within 3 months, creating construction jobs almost immediately.

A third military construction project is the Combined Surface Maintenance Shop at the Fort Indiantown Gap Vehicle Paint Prep Facility in Annville, PA. This facility will reduce hazardous waste associated with paint operations, create safer working conditions, increase productivity and reduce costs. I understand that land and environmental reviews are complete and the design is 75-percent complete, allowing for construction within 3 or 4 months, were funds to be made available.

Vital funding in the economic stimulus bill will allow us to improve the care we provide to our veterans. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, necessary improvements to the Southeastern Veterans' Center in Spring City, PA, could commence with $17 million in Federal funding. A new long term health care facility would replace the ten substandard modular units currently on the premises of the Southeastern Veterans' Center. This proposed project will include the construction, furnishing and equipping of a multi-story facility with the capacity to provide skilled nursing care and dementia care for 120 residents. Further, this project will provide appropriate housing for the veterans and will enable the Southeastern Veterans' Center to entirely vacate the substandard modular units, while reducing costly maintenance.

In addition to major construction projects, I understand that Pennsylvania has nearly $119 million in non-recurring maintenance and minor construction projects that are needed and could be completed in Fiscal Year 2009 were funds made available at this time. The importance of these smaller projects should not be ignored, as many of them hold the potential to impact positively the lives of our veterans in short order.

Providing funds in the economic stimulus package for construction and maintenance projects at national parks could have a stimulating affect on the economy and put people to work. Among the projects in Pennsylvania that could benefit from economic stimulus funding is the Flight 93 National Memorial, which will honor the 40 passengers and crewmembers of United Airlines Flight 93 who gave their lives to save countless others on September 11, 2001. I have worked with members of the Pennsylvania delegation to secure funding for this most important project in the annual appropriations bills. However, it is my understanding that an additional $6.2 million is required for the first phase of construction to commence.

Additionally, according to the Congressional Research Service, recent estimates suggest that the National Park Service has a deferred maintenance backlog of almost $10 billion. Deferred maintenance projects often include important construction work on buildings, trails, recreation sites and other infrastructure within the parks. For example, according to Gettysburg National Military Park officials, the current maintenance backlog at the park would cost $55 million to complete. In addition, there are deferred maintenance projects at Valley Forge National Historical Park, Independence National Historical Park and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area Park, among others.

Funding these projects will not only put people to work, but will go a long way to support the ongoing efforts to preserve, protect and enhance our country's most precious and historically significant national treasures.

In conclusion, while I would like to hear further from the administration and other economic experts to give us guidance on addressing the current economic crisis, the projects which I have outlined in Pennsylvania are the kind of expenditures that will provide the most realistic opportunity to stimulate the economy.

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