News Releases

Murray Urges Support for Economic Recovery Bill

Feb 11 2009

Bill would create 1,000s of Washington state jobs, invest in roads, schools, Hanford, and BPA


(Washington, D.C.) – Today, as members of the House and Senate announced a breakthrough agreement on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered a speech on the Senate floor urging final passage of the bill, and detailing how it will help Washingtonians.

Murray said the bill will help put thousands of Washingtonians to work rebuilding roads and bridges, cleaning up Hanford, and helping to expand green energy options through the Bonneville Power Administration.  It also will direct millions of dollars in aid to the state and to local communities, enabling them to help working families and keep teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other essential workers on the job.

“The House and Senate have taken a critical step forward by passing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  It will give our economy the jolt it needs, create jobs, and help get our country back on track,” Senator Murray said in her speech.  “But we aren’t done yet – we still need to get that bill to President Obama.  And every day we wait, the economy gets worse.” 

“The American people need action now,” Senator Murray added.  “They need us to set aside our differences, and put a final bill into President Obama’s hands so we can start the real work of getting our country moving again.” 

Below is a summary of Washington state funding in the bill, as reported from Conference Committee today.  More detailed information will be available on Thursday:

  • TAX CUTS:  Includes income tax cut of up to $800 for Washington workers and their families.
  • HIGHWAYS:  Includes nearly $500 million to improve Washington state roads, highways, and bridges and create jobs. Also includes $1.5 billion for nationwide competitive grant program for projects of major national or regional importance.
  • TRANSIT:  Includes over $175 million in new transit funding for Washington state to keep residents moving and create jobs.
  • FERRIES:  The bill includes a $60 million nationwide grant program to fund ferry and ferry terminal upgrades.
  • UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE:  Will give another $100 per month in unemployment insurance benefits for unemployed workers in Washington, Will provide extended unemployment benefits to many more laid-off workers.
  • WORKER TRAINING:  Includes close to $64 million to train unemployed Washington state workers and get them the skills needed to embark on new careers.
  • HANFORD:  Includes $6 billion for Environmental Management (EM) nationwide. Historically, Hanford Nuclear Reservation receives a significant portion of EM funding. This funding would help save or create jobs at Hanford, would accelerate cleanup efforts, and would save taxpayers millions in future cleanup costs.
  • BPA:  Includes $3.25 billion in additional borrowing authority so that the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) can modernize the region’s power grid and bring alternative energy sources online. BPA is the largest marketer of wholesale electricity in the Pacific Northwest. This funding will mean that BPA can improve their aging transmission lines so that new sources of energy can be made available to customers and new green jobs can be created throughout the state.
  • MEDICAID:  The bill includes over $2 billion for Washington state to ease the burden of rising Medicaid costs.

The full text of Senator Murray’s speech as prepared for delivery follows:

Mr. President, I recently received a letter from a woman in Sultan, Washington, that I want to share with you today as we work to finalize the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. 

She wrote to me because her family is going through hard times and she doesn’t know where else to turn.  Her husband – a veteran who received a purple heart – lost his job in October.  Her own wages have been cut.  And her daughter and 3-year-old granddaughter have had to move in with them because they can’t afford rent and child care.

At the end of the month, they will lose their home to foreclosure.  She said her family is living “both literally and figuratively on the edge.” 

As she put it, “We are the textbook middle class … sliding into a jobless, homeless, and hopeless future.” 

Mr. President, I share her story with you today because the pain she is going through is being felt by the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs and their homes in the last couple of years.  Families like hers feel like their lives are slipping out from under them, and they’re looking to us for help.

The House and Senate have taken a critical step forward by passing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  It will give our economy the jolt it needs, create jobs, and help get our country back on track. 

But we aren’t done yet – we still need to get that bill to President Obama.  And every day we wait, the economy gets worse.  Every day more jobs are cut, more small businesses close their doors, more homes are lost, and more families are forced to make new sacrifices just to make ends meet.

And that’s why I’ve come to the floor today.  The American people need action now.  They need us to set aside our differences, and put a final bill into President Obama’s hands so we can start the real work of getting our country moving again. 

So I urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to finish the job and give this bill final approval.

This Bill is about Jobs and Economic Recovery

Mr. President, the bill coming out of conference isn’t perfect.  But it makes tried and true investments that will help create jobs and get our country back on track.

It makes a down payment on our future by rebuilding our roads and bridges, and water and sewer plants – investments that will put people to work today and strengthen our economy for years to come. 

It expands our renewable energy options – creating good-paying jobs in a growing industry – and helping to end our addiction to oil. 

It will help improve health care and cut costs by computerizing health records and boosting research.  And it invests in education and job training that will help laid-off workers learn new skills and find new jobs.

Mr. President, our economy isn’t going to recover overnight.  We still have still hard times ahead.  But I’m confident that this is the urgent action we need to begin moving forward again.  And I want to take a few moments talking about what it will mean for families in my home state of Washington.

This Bill Helps Working Families

To begin with, Mr. President, this bill offers a helping hand to thousands of families in Washington state who are struggling to meet their basic needs.

In the last couple of months, my home state has seen the demand for food stamps, Medicaid, and other programs rise dramatically.  Food-stamp applications are up 15 percent over last year.  And state workers have said they’re having trouble keeping up. 

This bill is going to help us meet the needs of the most vulnerable families by extending unemployment insurance benefits, expanding food stamps, and increasing funding to help with Medicaid costs. 

Mr. President, this isn’t just the moral thing to do.  We won’t be able to dig ourselves out of our economic crisis until people have money to spend.  So this is the right decision economically as well.  The money we spend on unemployment and food stamps will go right back into the economy as people use the benefits to pay for things they need.

And that’s the same reason we’re working to get money into the hands of working families and small business owners. 

Like families all over the country, people in my home state are scared, they’re struggling to make ends meet, and they aren’t spending.  So we’re including an income tax cut that will give almost 2.5 million Washington workers some extra money in their paychecks every week.

And because this bill is about stabilizing our economy and getting our country back on track, we’re also including funding to help struggling families pay for critical expenses like child care, health care, and college tuition.

Mr. President, I was a working mom, I know that reliable child care is what makes it possible for millions of parents to get to work every day.  This bill increases the Child Care Development block grant so that more parents can afford quality day care for their kids. 

It increases Pell Grants, and higher education tax credits to help thousands of students stay in college, get their degree, and qualify for a good-paying job.  And it makes COBRA more affordable so that people who have lost their jobs can keep their health insurance while they look for work.
This Bill Creates Thousands of Construction Jobs in Washington State
So, Mr. President, we’re helping working families pay for basic expenses, stay in school, and keep their jobs and their health care.  And that’s critical to getting our country back on track. 

But the biggest jolt to our economy will come from the millions of jobs we’re creating in construction, environmental clean-up, and energy development. 

In my state, this bill will help put thousands of people to work fixing our roads and bridges – and upgrading our mass transit and ferry systems.  These are investments that will also make our communities stronger and more attractive to businesses over the long-term.

It will help us take a big step toward energy independence and lower energy costs for everyone.  This bill expands the Bonneville Power Administration’s existing borrowing authority.  It will help us take advantage of more renewable energy sources and hire hundreds of thousands of new employees who will be trained to update our energy transmission systems.  And that will allow the new energy we hope to produce – like wind – get to our homes and businesses and save us all money in the future.

This bill helps create and preserve jobs at Hanford.  It will keep our legal and moral commitment to clean up nuclear waste in Washington state and across the country.

And it will ensure that we can fulfill our responsibility to our nation’s veterans by making investments in badly needed construction and repair projects at our VA hospitals and medical facilities in Washington state and across the country.

Aid to States

But, Mr. President, we aren’t just creating construction jobs with this bill.  We’re helping state and local governments keep critical employees on the job, people like our police and our firefighters, and our teachers and university employees.

Mr. President, the economic crisis has hit state and local governments hard – and they’ve had to make cuts across the board – including education, and emergency response.  Local officials tell me they’re worried about what this will mean for our communities.  Police chiefs and sheriffs have been warning me that I.D. theft, burglary, bank robbery, fraud, and gang activity could increase as jobs vanish and people become more desperate.

So this bill provides money for Byrne and COPS grants to help keep police on the beat and our cities safe.  And just as important, Mr. President – this bill will help our schools, colleges, and universities keep the doors open, and keep teachers in the classroom. 

School board members from across Washington state told me this week that they’re struggling to afford everything from salaries to the light bill.  Several have already started layoffs, and they’re worried that more will come.  And universities in my home state are looking at hundreds of job cuts.

Education is crucial to our communities – especially when the economy is bad.  We need strong schools and colleges to train the workforce of the future.  And we need them to make sure our current workforce can get skills training and qualify for new and better-paying jobs. 

We can’t afford to take a step backward.  So we are sending billions of critically needed dollars to schools and colleges across the country to keep the lights on and the doors open, keep teachers on the job, and make sure we can meet the needs of students who have been hurt by the economic crisis. 

And, Mr. President, let me add one other note.  We aren’t just helping to make up for state budget cuts – we are adding incentives that make sure schools keep working to increase standards and improve education for all students.

This Bill Invests in our Workforce

Finally, Mr. President, we’re also investing in our greatest resource – our workers – so that our communities can stay productive and competitive in the global economy.  This bill includes over $64 million for training and job-search services that will help laid-off workers in Washington state learn the skills they need so they can begin new careers and stay in the middle class.

And it provides incentives to encourage businesses to hire homeless veterans and disadvantaged teenagers who are looking for jobs today.  Mr. President, this isn’t just going to help teens and veterans find jobs.  It’s good for the economy too. 

Our teenagers in particular are more likely to spend the money they earn in their own communities – and some also contribute to their families’ incomes to help pay rent or put food on the table.  So this is a smart investment.

We Can’t Afford to Wait Any Longer

So, Mr. President, this bill is critical for my home state.  In Washington alone, it will create thousands of jobs and make investments that will strengthen our communities for years to come.

It isn’t perfect.  It’s not a silver bullet that will solve all of our problems.  But it certainly is the first of many steps we have to take to turn our country around.  As President Obama has outlined, getting our economy back on track is going to take an aggressive three-pronged approach.

The first step is to recover and reinvest.  We also have to stabilize our financial institutions to fix the credit and banking system.  And we need to address the housing crisis.

But, Mr. President, I want to emphasize that we have to do all three if we are going to get this economy moving again.  We are starting here today with a bold recovery bill.

While there are no guarantees with any of this – we can guarantee that if we do nothing, things will only get worse.  And as hard as it has been for us to write and put this bill together, it doesn’t even compare to the pain being felt by the millions of Americans who will wake up tomorrow without a job.

They’re watching us now, and they’re expecting us to make good on our promises to bring change to Washington and restore confidence and security in our country.  They expect us to work together.  They expect us to put our differences aside, and make the tough decisions that will move our country forward.

And they can’t afford to wait any longer. 

When I was growing up, my father was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis – and all of a sudden he couldn’t work any longer.  My family survived on food stamps for awhile.  And later, my brothers and sisters and I were able to go to school thanks to Pell grants and student loans.  So I understand what so many families are going through – and that’s why I am working to find ways that government and our country can help.

President Obama made it clear Monday night that if we don’t act, the economic crisis we’re in now could become an economic catastrophe.  So I urge my colleagues to help us pass the bill out of conference so we can get it signed – get Americans back to work – and get our country on the road to recovery.