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NPT Capitol: Pickett explains the ins and outs of the stimulus package

pickettThe stimulus package is a funny thing. State Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso and chairman of the House Transportation committee gave me a little insight into how it works yesterday.

Regarding transportation, Texas will receive about $2.6bn. But it’s not like DC just cuts Texas a check. It cuts hundreds. Of the $2.6bn, $1.1bn goes straight to local Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPOs) through a complex formula funding rubric. The rest, in theory, goes to goes to TXDOT.

For El Paso this means about $21m in-pocket, since Governor Perry asked for the money last week. Sounds like a lot right? Let’s get boots on and shovels in the ground! This is supposed to be a “stimulus package” after all. Gosh, imagine what you could do with $21m…

Not a lot, would seem to be the answer….

–Ben Wright

El Paso’s MPO (which Pickett chairs and includes Senator Shapleigh and Mayor Cook as voting members) wants to use the money as leverage, in order to also get a slice of the TXDOT money. TXDOT’s $1.5bn is discretionary in that they can decide which of the states ready-to-go projects get the cash.

According to Pickett, El Paso’s MPO wants to sort out the intersection of 1-10 and Loop 375, putting exit ramps that would link the two highways in all directions at a cost of about $290m.

The spaghetti junction project would roughly require an extra $200m from TXDOT – El Paso would put its $21m of stimulus cash, along with $70m from other local pots towards it.

Sound complicated? Well it gets worse!

You might think that if TXDOT, who have 120 days to obligate half of the $1.5bn, approve the I-10/Loop 375 funding (i.e. $200m of that $1.5bn) then it’s shovels to the ground time right?

Wrong. Because TXDOT doesn’t have the money yet. Once obligated, TXDOT then have to go to the Feds and request it, justifying the projects chosen. The Feds can turn them down if they don’t think TXDOT are spending the money properly (i.e. it doesn’t stimulate the economy, keep people in jobs etc…)

So the term “stimulus package” is a bit of a misnomer – it certainly isn’t an “injection” – much more of a tease and a trickle – perhaps “titillating package” would be a better term.

Oh and one more thing…TXDOT has $16bn worth of ready-to-go projects, according to Pickett. The federal money only puts a medium sized dent in this.

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Written by newspapertreeelpaso

February 25, 2009 at 10:29 am

One Response

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  1. Leave it to Joe to tell it like it is…that’s why his name on the ballot has always had an X by his name from me…opposed or not. Thanks Joe, and congrats on chairing the committee. Hope you get to chair others. Stay with it, and chin up.

    S R

    February 27, 2009 at 1:06 pm


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