Murkowski cites concerns with $900 billion stimulus package

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today said the stimulus bill before the Senate is an attempt to satisfy all interests and questions many provisions that will not stimulate the economy.

“The package as it stands is excessive and it’s not in the country’s best interest to be spending money we don’t have for things we don’t need,” Murkowski said.

Murkowski singled out office renovations at the U.S. Department of Commerce, research for volunteer service and millions of dollars for the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority as examples of questionable spending.

Murkowski called on the Senate to pass a stimulus bill that will revive the nation’s economy through targeted tax credits and infrastructure investments.

Modifying the tax code to provide tax credits or lower taxes for both individuals and businesses is central to stimulating the economy, she said.

“Small businesses, which comprise nearly 97 percent of employers in Alaska, must be given a quick injection of cash that will free up money to hire more workers or to improve their businesses,” she said. “I believe that modifying the tax code is the best way to facilitate job creation as well as business and individual spending.”

Alaska’s senior senator said that infrastructure spending should be at the heart of a stimulus bill if we want to keep American workers on the job.

“Yet infrastructure spending is less than 10 percent of the overall spending in this bill,” she said. “As an example, Alaska needs more than $600 million for water and sewer projects, yet the bill only provides $80 million to the state for this.”

Murkowski said the $900 billion economic stimulus package being debated by the Senate this week should contain a provision to increase tax credits for all homebuyers.

“This is the type of provision a stimulus bill needs – one that is targeted and focused on the root of the problem – to help resuscitate our failing economy,” she said.

Murkowski warned against passing a stimulus bill that would temporarily fund programs and services, but then leave states on the hook for future funding needs.

“Will schools, municipalities and jobs simply terminate after 2 years or will programs or positions be scaled back when the federal money dries up?” she asked.

Murkowski said Alaskan superintendents told her staff last week that the best use of stimulus money would be to add teachers, aides and other personnel to better meet students’ needs.

“But they also said that if the funding does not continue, they would have to lay off the people they hired,” she said. “One superintendent even expressed concern that increasing and then decreasing services to students with disabilities would open his district to lawsuits. The only other alternative to cutting the new programs and services is to ask the state to pick up the tab. For Alaska alone, in Fiscal Year 2009, that would amount to more than $36 million just for Title I and Special Education programs.”

Murkowski said that while she supports a prohibition on earmarks in the stimulus bill, she wants to ensure that the package does not disadvantage Alaska.

“For example, Alaska has the shortest construction season in the country due to our weather and that should not penalize Alaska if it delays our ability to use the infrastructure funds in a timely manner,” she said.

Murkowski also said the formula in the Senate bill for highway spending adversely impacts Alaska and other smaller rural states, and the bill doesn’t provide any funding for ports, even though the United States is heavily dependent on our ports for commerce and trade.

“These are glaring weaknesses,” she said.

Murkowski said the question the Senate must answer this week is not whether Congress should pass this stimulus package, but rather if the provisions in the bill will stimulate the economy and make jobs immediately available.

“Re-doing the stimulus package later in the year because certain provisions did not work is simply not an option,” she said. “I am hopeful Congress has learned some lessons from the TARP – the Troubled Assets Relief Program.”