WASHINGTON - Senate Democratic leaders yesterday unveiled a $100 billion economic recovery package that would provide $13.5 billion for infrastructure projects and more than $1.5 billion for housing programs. However, it's unclear if the measure would include tax-exempt or tax-credit bonds, and sources are skeptical about its prospects in the current lame-duck session.
A summary of the Economic Recovery Act of 2008 was released by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.
Reid called for Congress to promptly pass the legislation during its lame-duck session, which began on Monday.
However, sources said Republicans will likely block it due to objectionable provisions such as one that would pull $25 billion from the $700 billion bailout program to help the American auto industry.
A more likely scenario is that another, broader bill, perhaps with tax and bond provisions, will be introduced in January when the new Congress and the administration of President-elect Barack Obama take power.
The $13.5 billion in infrastructure funds would be authorized for the building and repair of highways, bridges, mass transit, airports, and Amtrak. However, it is expected that the funds would most likely will be distributed directly to states in proportion to their infrastructure needs, according to sources.
Tony Dorsey, media relations manager for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said highway funds probably would be focused on projects that would be "ready to go" within 90 days of when federal funds were allocated.
While Congress nixed infrastructure funding in the first stimulus package, instead opting for the more direct checks to taxpayers, the prolonged nature of the economic downturn makes infrastructure spending more appealing, Dorsey said.
"We're talking about creating jobs here," he said. "It makes sense to invest in projects that are longer ... Investing in them will keep people working."