Missouri Hopes For Big Economic Stimulus Gift | KCUR

Missouri Hopes For Big Economic Stimulus Gift

Dec 10, 2008

Kansas City, MO – Missouri Transportation officials don't take a public stance on Santa Claus, but they're hoping an economic stimulus package being pushed by the President elect could be the next best thing.

RAHN: "Missouri has put together it's wish list and instead of sending it to the North Pole, we're sending it to Washington."

That's Missouri transportation director Pete Rahn. As KCUR's Maria Carter reports Missouri is hoping for an economic stimulus miracle after the holiday season.

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You might wonder what has Missouri officials so hopeful? Well, there's this recent statement by Barack Obama.

OBAMA: "We will create millions of jobs by making the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s."

If he was writing a holiday newsletter, Missouri Department of Transportation director Pete Rahn would have to write MODOT weathered a tough year. Drops in gas taxes and new car sales could mean when all is said and done at the end of the fiscal year the department collected 73 million dollars less than they thought they would. So what's Rahn asking for? About a half billion dollars for 34 projects across the state that he says would employ thousands of people.

RAHN: "we're spending money on American workers, purchasing American supplies, building American infrastructure that's the foundation to our economy not buying a flat screen television built in China"

President-elect Obama maintains that states have projects he calls "shovel ready." And a number of states say they do and are also hoping for gift of economic stimulus. But Economist Allen Viard says shovel ready may not be fast enough. He studies tax and budget policy at the American Enterprise Institute and says infrastructure dollars tend to be more of a trickle

VIARD: "it depends in part on how upon how quickly the spending will occur once it begins. If it's going to take six months to begin and then if it's a slow process once it starts, you're really looking at some pretty serious delays then."

Viard is a bit of an economic stimulus package Scrooge. He says he thinks monetary policy is a better way to go. But Missouri says it could have its works projects moving fast--within 180 days.

One of the items on Missouri's list is the final phase of construction on highway 150 in south Kansas City. A half dozen construction workers in mud covered boots are packing up their trucks. MoDOT engineer Paul Russ wears a neon yellow safety vest as he examines the area on a windy day with sleet starting to fall. Russ says with better weather 80 people would be working here.

RUSS: "Most of these folks are being paid a pretty good wage to be out here. Carpenters,operators, iron workers, fields like that that you have to have some skills to do."

Kansas City companies like Clarkson Construction say they sure could use the federal money. Company spokesman Don Clarkson says state highway funds are drying up and the company has begun to lay off workers as the economic outlook gets bleaker. He says federal dollars for infrastructure would give some real bang for the buck.

CLARKSON: "The governments actually getting something for their money. They're not just handing out paychecks to everybody, every citizen. They governments actually getting things built, you know, for this money."

Right now, the states have visions of pavement, new interchanges, and sewer construction dancing in their heads. But like kids on Christmas Eve, they'll have to wait a bit to see what Congress and the new President will leave them under the stimulus tree.

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