Colorado leaders ready to put stimulus to work
February 16, 2009
Colorado lawmakers say theyre ready to start spending on job-creating projects backed by the federal governments bailout package as soon as they cash the check signed Tuesday by President Barack Obama.Obama signed the $787 billion stimulus bill at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. He also toured the museums solar panel installation to highlight the boost he hopes the measure will give to renewable energy and underscore Colorados leadership in that field.Obama said his stimulus package wont end the recession but did promise that today does mark the beginning of the end.House Speaker Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, said Colorado has projects ready to go using the estimated $2 billion being provided to the state. Colorado plans to spend the money on transportation, transit, homeless prevention and shoring up the state budget, which faces a $625 million shortfall.Carroll said Obama chose Colorado for the bill signing because of its campaign for a new energy economy built around attracting workers for fledgling wind and solar power industries.To do that, the state needs to build electric transmission lines to get that power to market with money set aside in the stimulus package, educated workers, and highways to attract new businesses, Carroll said.Well have jobs by June, Carroll said.Sam Mamet, executive director of the Colorado Municipal League, which represents about 260 communities, said Gov. Bill Ritter controls the purse strings on the new federal dollars. But hes hoping some of that money will go to local communities for projects like sewer plants, water plants and hiring police officers.This wont satisfy everyone, but its a great start, said Mamet, who attended the signing ceremony.Former Gov. Roy Romer, a fellow Democrat, said Obama is providing the right medicine at the right time.Romer said he survived the Dust Bowl and the Depression in Holly, a small town in southeast Colorado, and he remembers the struggle he and his neighbors endured. Rural communities cannot be left behind in the rush to create more jobs, he said.People have got to go where the jobs are, and thats rural areas where were creating wind power and solar power, Romer said.It will take time for the stimulus package to work and people should be patient, Romer said.This is not going to pass lightly. This recession is going to be tough, he said.Colorado Republicans held a protest rally at the state Capitol to coincide with the signing. The state GOP ran full-page ads in Tuesdays editions of the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post criticizing the bill as pork-laden and ineffective.Obama flies to Phoenix later Tuesday to outline plans for reversing the collapse of the housing market.