|Dock Thompson at EDTI Committee/TVW|
There's an undercurrent of discussion in the Northwest statehouses, hard-pressed financially all three of them, about the possibility of at least partial salvation coming from Washington, D.C. There is, in that Washington, a major stimulus package under development. What will it mean for the states in the Northwest? No one knows.
But the legislatures would like to know what they can. In Washington, Governor Chris Gregoire at one point said she was hoping for a billion dollars or so in stimulus money.
Best not count on it. This afternoon, the Washington Senate Economic Development, Trade & Innovation Committee heard from Dick Thompson, special assistant to the governor (and previously holding a wide range of positions in state government), who has been tasked with finding out what to expect.
"For year, my advice to people who were going to testigy was never guess," he said. But: "Guesses and rumors is about all I can give you today. . . . I will tell you everything we think we know. But there is not a lot we know in real fact."
Much of the package, he said, seems to be in the form of tax relief rather than direct spending, so that portion doesn't do much for state budgets. "We have gone from thinking we have large discretion to thinking we have very, very little." (A big difference from the bank bailout last year.) Highways and bridges have been thought to be a key component of this, he said, but it still amounts to just about $30 billion nationally - and maybe a little over $500 million might make its way to Washington. Not nearly as much as once hoped for.
Looks like a window of three to four months to let bids, which means project would have to be close to ready to go. And money apparently would go directly to local or state agencies, not to the state for general distribution.
There's little clarity though, he said, of whether this formula is an Obama-backed proposal or just something wandering through the U.S. House. And everyone waits . . .