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States, cities seek stimulus funds

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 24 2008 12:03 a.m. MST

It's not just Utah and other states that have wish lists for federal stimulus dollars aimed at creating jobs by jump-starting infrastructure projects — cities and counties do, too.
State and local governments nationwide are competing for a share of President-elect Barack Obama's promised federal stimulus package, expected to pump $600 billion to $850 billion into the troubled economy.
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. released a $14.4 billion list that includes everything from highway projects to sewer treatment systems. The governor said the projects would create 124,000 jobs over the next five years.
Salt Lake City is seeking nearly $780 million in federal funding for "ready-to-go" projects, including $65 million to rebuild the North Temple viaduct and $100,000 for a streetcar line in Sugar House.
And Salt Lake County's hopes for a slice of the federal stimulus pie comes in at $173 million, with "green infrastructure" such as solar panels for county buildings leading the list.
All of the projects being submitted are expected to be able to get under way within 180 days and take one to five years to complete. The target set by the new administration is to create 3 million jobs.
Congress will need to approve the federal stimulus package, which Obama has said he intends to sign shortly after taking office on Jan. 20. Even though the process for securing funds has not yet been determined, associations representing state and local governments are already gearing up their lobbying efforts.
The National Governors Association has so far compiled requests totaling about $120 billion from about 30 states, said David Quam, NGA director of federal relations.
Quam played down the idea that states are competing with local entities for a share of stimulus cash.
"The idea is to get shovels in the ground, to put people to work in a timely basis," he said. "At the state level, states are going to do planning for the entire state."
Huntsman spokeswoman Lisa Roskelley said the stimulus program is "not intended to be competitive, necessarily," but should focus on projects that will produce the biggest benefits.
"The governor's focus is statewide," Roskelley said. "This is an opportunity to get a jump-start on projects that are not only an immediate boost to the state economy and businesses and families, but speak to the overall long-term competitiveness of our state."
But associations representing local governments say that's where the dollars may be best spent.
"Counties own and maintain a large portion of the nation's infrastructure," National Association of Counties spokesman Jim Philipps said. "The fastest and most effective way to get the money into the economy is providing funding to those counties."
The counties association surveyed 104 counties nationwide, including Salt Lake County, and found they wanted a total of $24.1 billion for nearly 3,000 projects.
Salt Lake County is counting on the Obama administration to take care of local governments.
"What we're being told is the new administration is going to try as much as possible to distribute funds directly to counties and municipalities," said Doug Willmore, Mayor Peter Corroon's chief administrative officer. "We've heard that number could go as high as 30 percent."
Salt Lake County Councilman Joe Hatch said that at this point, he is optimistic the federal government will treat all the requests fairly.
"I think as long as they establish a good system of equitable criteria for evaluating projects, we're in good shape," Hatch said. "If, on the other hand, this is done via political chutzpah, that would be an entirely different situation."
The Utah Association of Counties said only Salt Lake County is asking for federal stimulus funds.
So far, though, nine Utah cities have put in requests to U.S. Conference of Mayors for more than $1.6 billion in funds.
In all, the U.S. Conference of Mayors is reporting more than 15,000 "ready-to-go" infrastructure projects in 641 cities representing a local infrastructure investment of $96.6 billion. The projects would generate an estimated 1.2 million jobs in 2009 and 2010, according to a new report.
Salt Lake City officials estimate its requested $780 million in projects would create nearly 2,900 jobs.

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