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Monday, January 25, 2010

Senator Specter's vote for the Recovery Act

Stephen R. Reed, the former mayor of Harrisburg, writes about the Recovery Act:

...the vote of Specter, who put the needs of the commonwealth and the country above party ideology... ...might well have saved the nation from a 1929 Depression.
Full article:

Recovery Act spurs positive change in nation and Harrisburg

By Patriot-News Op-Ed

January 19, 2010, 7:03AM

A year ago, the nation was on the verge of economic collapse.

Local communities statewide faced the threat of home foreclosures, job cuts, retirement fund losses and a decline in consumer confidence. Local tax revenues were down at the time demand for social services and government relief was climbing.

Today, we live amid new hope that the worst effects of the recession are behind us. There are increasing signs that Congress and the Obama administration were right to intervene in the economy on a massive scale and that Sen. Arlen Specter was right to break party ranks and cast the deciding vote in favor of the administration’s stimulus package.

His vote cost him the support of the Republican Party, but it earned high marks for political courage. “Party,” as John Kennedy used to say, “sometimes asks too much.”

The $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is putting people back to work, restoring roads and bridges, promoting green technology, fighting homelessness, hiring more police and firemen and strengthening education.

It is above all a catalyst for change. Change in the way we generate and use energy.

Change in our treatment of the environment. Change in our approach to mass transit and train travel. Change in our approach to homelessness and crime prevention, Change in our treatment of ex-offenders. Change — as in the transformation of urban life.

In Harrisburg and Dauphin County, the stimulus has meant millions of dollars for street resurfacing and bridge repairs; childhood nutrition; work-study jobs for college students; teachers and teacher aides; low-income housing; more police; homeless prevention; defense projects; HIN1 research grants; job training and health care.

Sample grants in our area include $2.1 million for street repaving; $1.7 million for police; $773,000 for clean energy; $7.2 million to restore abandoned neighborhoods; $200,000 for mass transit; $364,000 for clean energy; $245,000 for crime prevention; $278,000 for a “second chance” for ex-offenders; $3.4 million for the Cumberland-Dauphin-Harrisburg Transit Authority to purchase new buses (including five hybrids); $7 million for school lunches; $114,000 for work-study jobs at Harrisburg Community College; $855,478 to renovate homes for resale to low- and moderate-income homebuyers; and $3.7 million to hire teachers to improve failing schools.

America’s aging electrical grid is at risk of catastrophic failure. PPL Electric Utilities Corp. will spend a “smart grid” stimulus grant of $19 million to revamp its distribution system for Harrisburg’s 60,000 customers. The new technology, employing “smart meters,” will allow the company to operate its power lines more efficiently at a savings to customers of $1.5 million a year. “It has the potential to reshape the way we think about, use and deliver electricity,” says David DeCampli, president of PPL.

To deal with mounting joblessness, the Act extended unemployment benefits through December 2009. Congress then added another 14 weeks. Sens. Specter and Casey helped secure an extra six weeks on top of that for Pennsylvania with its 8.5 percent unemployment rate.

All told, Pennsylvania expects to receive more than $16 billion from the Recovery Act. About $10 billion will flow through state agencies and departments for education, projects such as infrastructure improvements and alternative energy and support services such as Medicaid. Another $6 billion in direct tax relief and other direct assistance will go to residents, local governments, businesses and other entities.

None of this would have happened without the vote of Specter, who put the needs of the commonwealth and the country above party ideology. His action might well have saved the nation from a 1929 Depression.

Stephen R. Reed served 28 years as Mayor of Harrisburg.

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